The Great Swim
Gavin’s father gently challenges his ten-year-old son to swim a mile to an outlying island. After showing initial hesitancy, the boy rises to the challenge and completes the swim. He has confronted his fear and will henceforth understand that ‘difficult’ is not the same as ‘impossible,’ and it will be easier now to summon up courage when faced with an intimidating project.
This is a charming version of the age-old story best known to young children in The Little Engine That Could, and told in a couple of Aesop’s fables. It is refreshing to read about a child invited to achieve as an individual without the support or threat of a basketball, soccer or other sport team. The book is simply and clearly written and complemented by illustrations that fit the text appropriately, and I see only a couple of minor concerns: Children are told usually to digest their meals before swimming in case of incurring a cramp. Add a sentence or two suggesting a break before heading for the beach after Gavin’s twice-mentioned big breakfast. Loons wail, mournfully, they don’t sing and they tend to be heard more at night. How long is a mile? Perhaps compare it with the distance Gavin walks to school or some other familiar distance. It might be safer if Dad removed his glasses in case he has to jump into the water from the canoe.
I think the book needs a little pizzazz. Only a single sentence recognizes Gavin’s fear that a big fish might appear. That could be exploited, for instance, by his seeing something looming that turns out to be seaweed. The book will be welcomed by readers and also by adults who see it has a place for children who fear pressure to over-achieve.
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