Kid's Stuff -- Books About Swimming
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"D.W. All Wet"
Written by Marc Brown
Illustrated by Marc Brown
(Little, Brown & Co, 1988)

Adapted from the Arthur PBS-TV series. It's beach day, but Arthur's little sister D.W. doesn't want to go in the water and sits, grumpily making sand castles... That is, until Arthur tricks her and gives her a dunking, after which she loosens up and enjoys herself. The zinger at the end? When the rest of the family is tired and ready to home, D.W. doesn't want to leave. Not bad, though definitely just for littler kids. (B-)

Written by Susan Cooper
Illustrated by Jane Browne
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002)

A nice story about a quiet boy who shows compassion for a small animal, this quick picture book deftly addresses numerous psychologically weighty subjects, and though it may be a bit dark for some young readers, its ultimate message is hopeful and life-affirming. It was written by fantasy writer Susan Cooper, author of the "Dark Is Rising" series; she doesn't shy away from the shadow side of human nature, and thus we are presented with a young boy named Joe who hasn't yet learned to swim, and who is mocked by and feels inferior to his older brother and sister. One day, a small frog falls into the family pool, prompting Joe's siblings and parents to freak out and harass the poor animal. After they are unable to capture it, they go inside for a snack, and the more sensitive young Joe rescues the frog, setting it free, while also learning to swim after observing the amphibian's graceful breast-stroke. This book might not be for everyone, particularly for parents who don't want to acknowledge (or exacerbate) inter-family tensions, or who are uncomfortable with the alienation represented in Joe's relationship to the rest of his family. Also, small children may find the frog's panic to be upsetting. However, the book's core messages of empathy, mercy and self-reliance are powerful and positive, and give this a little more emotional wallop than your average picture book. Definitely worth checking out. (B+)

"Splash, Joshua, Splash!"
Written by Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
(Bloomsbury, 2004)

Absolutely wonderful. Bursting with energy and joyfulness, this book tells the story of a little boy (perhaps three or four years old?) named Joshua, who loves to play in water. Lively, strongly rhythmic writing propels readers into the whirlwind of Joshua's activities, especially a rambunctious trip to a public pool, where Joshua takes his grandmother down the "gigantic slide" time and time again. This is a fun book, and fun to read because of the strong, fluid writing style, which is perfectly complimented by the bold, dynamic, colorful artwork. An instant hit, the kind of book that prompts little ones to say "again!" again and again. Yay. Recommended! (A+)

"Will Goes To The Beach"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)

A delightful outing by Sweden's Olof & Lena Landstrom. Will and his mother pack up and ride their bikes down to the beach. When it starts to rain, all the other people run away, but Mama decides to stay -- you're swimming anyway, what difference does getting wet make? Will comes in, too, and when they're done wading, they have a little picnic. Another nice slice-of-life adventure in this sweet, simple series. (B+)

"Froggy Learns To Swim"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 1995)

One of the better Froggy books... Froggy's family goes to the swimming hole, but he's afraid to go in. When he finally does try it, Froggy likes swimming so much, he doesn't want to go home. This has all the same dumb elements that can make the Froggy books such a chore, but it's a pretty engaging, lighthearted treatment of a big, common childhood fear. Also, the idea of a frog that doesn't know how to swim is pretty funny. (B-)

"Katie Catz Makes A Splash"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Paul Meisel
(Harper Collins, 2003)

Great story about a little girl who conquers her fear of the water and learns how to swim... Katie avoids the subject of swimming and gets sad when some friends are going to have a pool party for their birthday -- finally her mom sends her to a swim class and there the seasoned teacher, Patsy Polarbear, quickly gains the girl's trust and gets her in the pool. The book is both a good story about a kid's personal journey, and a useful primer (for adults and children) about how to learn to swim. And Patsy's such a nice role model! (B+)

"Tuck In The Pool"
Written by Martha Weston
Illustrated by Martha Weston
(Clarion, 2000)


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