When You Can Swim

Orchard. May 2023. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338830965.
PreS-Gr 3–Characters across generations and with a variety of skin tones fill the pages of this poetic celebration of the power of swimming. Each scene begins with the words “When you can swim.” A single speaker is not identified, and many different children are invited to consider the host of adventures awaiting them once this new skill is acquired. Some of these experiences are tranquil, such as “lying on your back watching treetops drift by” and tumbling “into the water as the pebbles do.” Others are more dramatic, as in bending “like boulders beneath rushing waterfalls” or “diving off the bridge over the canal.” Lovely outdoor scenes depict swimming in natural settings; not until the last spread do readers spy a young child getting ready for an actual swim lesson at an indoor pool. “So swim little one” closes the book, reinforcing the author’s invitation to consider swimming both literally and metaphorically. Learning to swim is much like learning to navigate our lives.
VERDICT While this is not a plot-driven story, it would be excellent for early classroom discussions about theme and figurative language.

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