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WHEN YOU CAN SWIM by Jack Wong Kirkus Star


by Jack Wong ; illustrated by Jack Wong

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2023
ISBN: 9781338830965
Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Debut author Wong celebrates the freedom and joys of swimming.

With endpapers that depict an Asian child gazing uncertainly at their own reflection in a pool, this book offers beginning swimmers both reassurance and compelling promises of adventure and discovery that will ensue “when you can swim.” Images portray adults sharing the gifts of the water with their young ones, from shallow waters perfect for lazy afternoons to the otherworldly landscape of watery depths. Wong’s beautiful watercolor-and-pastel illustrations demonstrate a mastery of light and shadow, creating a textural quality that makes each page dance with life and movement. Combined with the lyrical text (“When you can swim, / we’ll bend like boulders / beneath rushing waterfalls”), each frame immediately immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and sensations of summer. Swimmers who are diverse in terms of body type, age, skin tone, and ability can be seen enjoying the natural world. In his author’s note, Wong shares his own experiences with swimming as a young person of color, explaining that this conscious representation is an affirmation that swimming is for everyone: “Yes, this belongs to you, too.” The title is bound to inspire all swimmers to embrace nature, no matter where they are on their journeys. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gorgeously rendered love letter to swimming and the magical experiences that it can unlock.

(Picture book. 4-8)