Review of Together We Swim, written by Valerie Bolling, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Together We Swim

written by Valerie Bolling
illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Chronicle Books, 2023. 36 pages.
Review written September 6, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review
2023 Finalist for the Kirkus Prize

I checked out this book because it’s one of two picture books chosen as a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, young readers category. It’s a charmingly perfect book for a youngster learning to swim.

Toes dip.

Side grip.

The text is very simple. Every spread has one or two rhyming couplets, and most of the lines are only two beats long. That simple text goes perfectly with the pictures showing a Black family outing to the pool. Dad and big sister are swimming happily. Mom is staying with the little brother. Although he’s Black, he reminds me completely of my own three-year-old nephew. He’s sweet and chubby and a little nervous about this whole thing, decked out in a floatie belt.

After some kicking and floating with a board and a pool noodle — all under Mom’s watchful eyes — he’s ready to do some swimming without the floatie.

There is a little episode:

Sink under,
Small blunder.

But Ma catches him with a

“Don’t fear,
I’m here.”

The story is maybe a little unrealistic in how far the little boy advances in one day, but it builds to swimming and grinning, with the whole family celebrating. And finishes with a warm family hug and heading home.

Filled with pride,
Off I stride.

A truly delightful picture book about a scary but satisfying accomplishment and a wonderful supportive family that helps it happen.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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