Pool is the debut picture book from South Korean illustrator JiHyeon Lee and it is marvelously magical - and wordless! Pool has the very qualities of a wordless picture book - superb illustrations and rich imagination - that have made this genre a favorite of mine. I was very happy to read the review of Pool in the New York Times by another favorite author of mine, Emily Jenkins (read my reviews of her books here), who said Pool is, "thematically similar to gorgeous wordless fantasies" linking it to favorites of mine like Aaron Becker's Journey, Barbara Lehman's Red Book, both Caldecott Honor winners, and David Wiesner's Flotsam, Caldecott Medal winner, all of which I talk about in my article How to Read a Book Without Words (Out Loud).
Pool begins with a lone boy, goggles and swim cap on, drawn in pencil. A page turn finds him at the edge of an empty swimming pool drawn in a cool shade of blue. Soon, a hoard of swimmers, all drawn in black and white, big and round like the flotation devices they carry, stampede into the pool. Gingerly, the boy makes his way into the pool, which is now wall-to-wall, sort of obnoxious, people. The chaos of the hordes is left behind with a page turn. The creamy white, two page spread shows the boy diving down. Beneath the dangling legs, the swimmer encounters another swimmer and the two dive deeper where another world awaits them.
Lee's world is rich with creatures that are sometimes monstrous, but mostly benign. As the two swim on they meet a truly amazing creature that I will leave for you to discover. It's a marvelous scene and a few pages later the two being their ascent, surfacing just as the hordes are leaving. From the opposite end of the pool, the boy gives the girl a hand and at the edge of the pool they take off their goggles and swim caps and we get to see what they look like. It's a very sweet scene with a special treat on the final page. On the back of the book and dust jacket is the lovely dedication, "For Those Who Want to Swim Freely in the World." I hope that JiHyeon Lee has many more books like this one waiting to make it onto the page!
Source: Review Copy