As a children’s librarian, much of my time is spent researching and reading picture books. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it! I’m currently offering a series of outreach story times for children in the community who might not otherwise be able to attend library programs. Many of these kids have already faced serious challenges in their lives, and a number of them struggle with self-regulation and behavioural expectations. In other words, these kids are absolutely amazing, but they can also be a real handful.
The most successful picture books for my story times balance short, energetic texts with a good dose of humour. A lot of preschool texts are simply too long for my groups, while toddler books are far too young and babyish. What I need are essentially hi-lo picture books – books that offer high interest stories with a lower reading level.
As you might imagine, these kinds of picture books can be likened to unicorns – beautiful, magical, and ridiculously rare. So whenever I find a book that works perfectly at my outreach story times, I just have to share it with the world.
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan is the sweet, silly, slightly surreal story of a little boy who discovers a giant whale squatting in his swimming pool. As long as the whale remains lodged in the pool, the little boy won’t be able to swim. What is a boy to do?
Wan’s illustrations just leap off the page with their bold, simple lines and bright colours, making them perfect for sharing with a large group of children. The characters are adorable and very cheery, but aren’t at all babyish or cutesy, which is ideal for preschoolers.
As you might expect, the whale and the boy form a mutually-beneficial alliance, using ingenuity to solve their problem of limited pool real estate.
The Whale in My Swimming Pool is fun, sweet, silly, and perfect for story times. The surprise on the last spread also suggests a sequel, which I will await with bated breath.