In this picture book debut from illustrator JiHyeon Lee, who lives and works in South Korea, readers meet a lone boy, staring at a large and empty pool. On the next spread, a boisterous and crowded group of children, complete with floats and beach balls, jump into the water, while the boy merely watches. The pool is filled to the brim, barely any room left for one more swimmer. The boy sits down at the pool’s edge and gets his feet wet, in more ways than one, slowly acclimating to the water—and, doubtless, all the people in it.
After he dives below the group of children, he meets a girl who has done the same. They swim together, playing on the ocean floor of their imagination. It’s here that Lee introduces color into the story. Whereas previously, readers only saw pale blue for the water and sepia tones for all the characters on cream-colored spreads, as the boy and girl continue to swim deeper, we see the bright reds, blues, greens and blacks of a vibrant world of creatures they see in their minds’ eyes. The fish they see brim with personality and character (and some with a slight, yet thrilling, menace), and they even meet a giant, fuzzy whale-esque creature that dwarfs them.
When all the children step out of the pool, our adventurous duo are still set apart from the others: They depart the pool to the right, while the crowd of loud children leave from the left. Next, readers see a lovely moment where the two remove their goggles and see one another for the first time above water. It’s clear they found their adventure exhilarating and will remain friends. (Introverts, unite!) In the funny final spread, one of the gaggle of children looks back at the pool and stares in confusion at the bright red and yellow creatures that have surfaced.
This is an enchanting story of wonder and friendship. Dive right in.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.