The stomachache ploy can't get a little girl out of her Saturday morning swim lesson. Armed with her "strawberry bathing suit" and "too-small swim cap," she arrives at the pool, where swim teacher Mary offers little comfort. On the "slippery and cold" pool deck overrun by children loud with happy anticipation, the girl remains virtually paralyzed, her head squeezed by her ill-fitting cap, her belly in turmoil. The other students eagerly jump in, but teacher Mary doesn't insist the child participate--she instead sits "on the edge of the pool the whole time."
The next week, despite another "very bad stomachache," she returns to the pool. This time, Mary entices the girl to practice "ice-cream scoops and kicks," always remaining at her side. By the third Saturday, the stomachache improves, while a new, looser swim cap gives her thinking space. Although she faces the water "carefully," she's eager to show Mary the kicks she's practiced at home in the bathtub. Floating comes next, then a few bobs... until she's actually looking forward to next week's aquatic challenges.
Author/illustrator Hyewon Yum, who earned the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award with Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!, moves from school to the pool in Saturday Is Swimming Day. Yum uses phrases like "my stomach hurt," "[m]y head felt tight inside my swim cap," "[t]he pool was loud," to signal the girl's anxiety and fear. Her vibrant watercolor and colored pencil pictures amplify the little girl's concerns, depicting her stooped over in defeat, hiding in a locker or hugging the walls, all while surrounded by rambunctious, water-loving children. As the little girl cautiously moves--very much at her own pace--toward comfort and confidence, Yum captures the power of empathic patience to turn apprehension into accomplishment. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon