The protagonist of Wan’s The Whale in My Swimming Pool (2015) returns to find another surprise.
The opening endpapers promise fun, with repeating images of a bed-sized bear and a small child rotating through precarious configurations, trying to get comfortable in a bed for one. Sure enough, silliness ensues. The child tries to get them both ready for bed, but the bear doesn’t seem to get it: “I said potty time, not party time!” remonstrates the child. Spread after spread of shenanigans culminates in bedtime and a moment of quiet…before a boisterous twist conclusion. It’s a promising premise, bolstered by the author/illustrator’s beloved graphic art. In addition to welcoming back the racially indeterminate, brown-haired protagonist, readers of The Whale in My Swimming Pool will enjoy spying a familiar face through a bedroom window. Bold lines and clean, colorful shapes bring the exuberant naughtiness of bedtime struggles to life—a full-page illustration of a gleeful, underpants-as-headwear–bedecked bear, twirling in ribbons of toilet paper pretty much sums it up. The story, though, never quite moves beyond a collection of silly moments. In a missed opportunity for suspenseful page turns and engaging pacing, the text, primarily composed of the child’s comments to the bear, appears in the same spreads as the bear’s mischievous misunderstandings, causing it to read flat.
Though gratifying for fans of the illustrator’s art, this bear doesn’t otherwise quite earn its space in the bed. (Picture book. 2-6)