cover image When You Can Swim

When You Can Swim

Jack Wong. Orchard, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-338-83096-5

In visually inventive, lovingly finished pastel-and-watercolor spreads and sinuous lines of prose-poetry, debut author-illustrator Wong showcases myriad children encountering the joys of swimming. An adult accompanies a child in each spread, narrating in anticipatory text what awaits them both: “When you can swim,/ first I’ll take you to the ocean//... to receive the water’s welcome.” Throughout, varied figures spanning abilities, ages, body types, and skin tones float, stroke, and dive into and under water. Across numerous locales—a local pool, a sandy beach, an opulent lake, and a winding river—the figures spot sea stars, “listen to the clinking/ of waves passing in and out/ of a million pebbles,” dive down deep into a lake “pitch-dark from tree bark,” and, in a final, suspenseful sequence, swim together a long way out to an island with ripe blueberries. “Yes, this belongs to you, too,” reads an author’s note, in which Wong describes learning to swim as an adult. Such belonging is precisely the triumph that the story envisions, offering swimming’s freedoms widely, and imagining the way that swimming can lend a feeling of autonomy and connection. Ages 4–8. Agent: Wendi Gu, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (May)