As we enter into a new “phase” this 2020 Corona summer, this is the perfect correlated picture book to start your child’s summer reading. Okay, I know, you’re all thinking, “My kids can’t swim in the local community pools, so why would you pick this book?” South Korean artist and illustrator Jihyeon Lee illustrates a beautifully wordless picture book, Pool. It is through an underwater world that silently tells the story of a child looking for connection and finds it through imagination.
Lee’s soft pencil illustrations depicts a flustering crowd of busyness and noise. Off to the poolside lonely corner, stands a young boy contemplating jumping into the water as a way of erasing himself from the obvious chaos on the surface. He ultimately decides to jump in, and while swimming, he meets another who is searching for the same, connective solitude.
Both with paralleled spirit of inquiry, emerge deeper evolving into a world reminiscent of Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings. Together, they swim through a watered universe and discover a magnitude of beautiful sea creatures.
Along the way, in silence and negative space, the inciting incident is visually captured by Lee’s pencil: the children are stunned at the sight of an enormous but tender sea creature. Veering into the gentle giant’s eyes, the children understand the mutual empathetic interconnection: we are not alone.
The idea of a wordless book always provides an opportunity for the child to create their own narrative. It’s so necessary, particularly in our past days, for them to have their own voice, to talk and ask questions about everything that’s so baffling around us. I recently heard the argument that wordless picture books were pointless. I would argue they bring the chance to teach children critical thinking through imagery. Some writers create words with an image first, and some create words, then art. Children are capable of creativity and seeing what is not physically there. The pool maybe the few options for connections children have right now, but they also have an imagination. This book will aesthetically springboard and incite conversation. How might your child tell the story? Do they have an idea for their own sea creature? Draw one and share it with us.
While the world outside is filled with viruses and confusion and eagerly awaits human connection, I hope, this summer, our children will have a way of building creativity. I hope they find someone to share it with – maybe with a wordless book. This one is a gorgeous start.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A NPR.org Best Book of the Year
Gold Medal Winner – Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show, 2015
Published May 15, 2015, by Chronicle Books Hardcover, 56 pages
Available: Kindle $8.79 Amazon $15.99