" the unnamed little girl in Saturday Is Swimming Dayby Hyewon Yum loves her (strawberry-decorated) swimsuit and is afraid of the water. During her first swim lesson, she stays poolside. By her second, she’s ready to get in, although cautiously. By the third, she’s excited to go to class, and fully participates. Yum’s watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations convey the little girl’s shifting emotions through easy-to-interpret body language. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)”
Another emotionally compelling tale for young readers is Hyewon Yum’s Saturday Is Swimming Day, the story of a young girl’s anxiety about swimming lessons. Yum pays so much respect to the interior lives of children in this story that young readers and listeners will surely relate, even if they’ve never once taken a swimming lesson. It’s less about swimming than it is a triumphant tale of learning to face and overcome fears, something young children do on a regular basis as they learn to navigate this world.
Yum paces the story leisurely, introducing readers to what appears to be the girl’s first swimming lesson, one she tries to get out of by telling her mother her stomach hurts. There’s no doubt, mind you, that the girl’s fears have resulted in actual stomach pain, but her mother takes her to lessons with her teacher Mary anyway. While all the other children run, shout, play, and delight in the pool, our brave protagonist avoids the water as much as possible. She sits on the edge of the pool for the entire first lesson, even showering afterwards so that her hair will be “wet like everyone else’s.”
Bit by bit, step by step, and with great patience on behalf of her and her teacher, she learns to kick in the water, do bobs, and even float on her back. Her joy at having overcome her fear and anxiety is almost palpable. Yum fills these pages with detailed drawings of the other children, imbuing them with distinct personalities, and her palette is a sunny, summery one, filled with the blues of the pool and the bright colors of the children’s swimsuits. When the girl floats in the water on her back for the first time, it is sublime, knowing the girl’s victory as we do: “It was so quiet with my ears in the water, and everything looked different.”
by Hyewon Yum; illus. by the author Preschool, Primary Candlewick 40 pp. g 6/18 978-0-7636-9117-2 $16.99
Like Nelly in No Swimming for Nelly, (reviewed on page 89), the unnamed little girl here is afraid of the water. Her strawberry-decorated swimsuit hangs invitingly from her wardrobe door, but she scrunches her face up and tells her mother that her stomach hurts. Once at the pool, she shrinks from getting into the water, and the teacher doesn’t insist. By the second lesson, she’s ready to get into the pool, albeit cautiously, and the teacher helps her practice “ice-cream scoops and kicks.” By the third Saturday, she is excited to go, and fully participates in the swim lesson. “And no stomachache!” Yum conveys the little girl’s fear and reluctance (juxtaposed with the exuberance and joy of the other children) through body language. In the locker room, she stands apart from the other kids (with their excited gestures and relaxed postures), hands behind her back, head down. As she becomes more comfortable, her limbs are more open and her expression becomes happy and engaged. Yum’s watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations show children with a variety of skin tones and features, including the main character, who appears to be Asian (and has a white mother and no father mentioned, adding an unspoken story some families may especially appreciate). There’s no preaching or reproach or trick here, just adults modeling the patience needed to give an anxious child time and space to try something new. susan dove lempke