Monday, 19 March 2012


Good morning, it's a fine, sparkly Spring day out there.
 A particularly excellent morning for eating cake in the sunshine and (assuming you have some sort of mobile device which you can take with you outside) you can do just that at Playing by the Book's lovely Edible Book Festival, freshly baked and open for viewing.
I am not allowed to reveal my own contribution yet- but I was excited to find the book that I wanted to review today beautifully evoked there amongst the (gulp) 73 entries.

 Despite a very bookish upbringing, I think the number of picture books we actually owned as children was substantially more limited than my sons' current personal libraries. 'Swimmy' by Leo Lionni was one of the few though and all I can say is lucky us that it was.  We had a beautiful hardback copy (in fact most of our picture books were lovely substantial hardbacks; quality over quantity- still intact despite mine being the fourth pair of hands to pick up many of them). It's impossible to guess how many times this book must have been read to me and then by me; but I might have given Eddie's Gruffalo habit a run for the money.
Having fewer books can mean a deeper connection with those few perhaps and the imprint left by 'Swimmy' meant it was one of the first books I bought for then baby Bill. I ordered it from (small voice) Amazon without checking properly and of course what arrived was not the splendid hardback of my memory but a thin half size paperback reissue. Still a great story but not quite the same.

It comes under Category Classic but if you've not come across it; it's the story of one small black fish who, Nemo-like, finds himself the last one standing in an ocean full of danger. Undaunted he gathers together a new band of tiddlers and together they swim in formation to scare the predators away. A straightforward hymn to the power of collective action and great Union leadership -I'm pretty sure the Tory-Topsy-and-Tim-corrupter  
friend's father of my childhood would not have been a fan.
It's a book that really oozes class and elegance both in the economy and beauty of the text and the  evocative watery block print illustrations. An extract:

'He saw a medusa made of rainbow jelly...
a lobster who walked about like a water moving machine...
strange fish, pulled by an invisible thread...
a forest of seaweeds growing from sugar candy rocks...
an eel whose tail was almost too far away to remember...'

Such poetic and expressive imagery; and in a book designed for the smallest people. It makes me feel almost emotional that Leo Lionni should have created something so perfect and profound.

'Swimmy' by Leo Lionni currently published by Random House US (amongst others- but all American editions I think- now I feel better about the Amazon thing) isbn 978-0394826202

1 comment:

  1. SWIMMY!!! I just saw you as a new follower over at my site, Pen Pals & Picture Books... thank you! and then I came here and I love what you've got going on! children's book lovers UNITE! Isn't is amazing how books from ones childhood can evoke such emotion and nostalgia. I often wonder what books will be like that for my kids, or if (like you) we have so many books (thanks to my obsession) that they perhaps won't have clear favorites later on... tho I suspect they still will.