Pardon that short and unexpected two week break from my Wednesday series. I have no good excuse except parental exhaustion. But I am back for another Wordless Wednesday post. I received this book early this summer from Chronicle Books as review potential. While pool season is over in most of the U.S., I still find myself diving into this book as often as possible. I find it entrancing, imaginative, soothing, and a pleasure to indulge, especially on days when I just need a deep breath and a break.
I sadly could not secure an interview with its creator as it is an import from South Korea, but I hope you’ll indulge a small review of it nonetheless. Allow me to share Pool by JiHyeon Lee, 2015 (U.S. printing by Chronicle Books).
The story is quite simple. A boy walks up to a pool that is completely empty. It swiftly fills with an overabundance of people, floaties, inner tubes, and every kind of pool item possible. The pool is crammed with craziness.
But the boy dives in anyway. He dives deep beneath the chaos of buoying arms and legs and is surprised to meet a little girl also swimming under it all. They pause a moment to greet each other, and then they keep swimming together.
And suddenly the pool has no limits. They discover an ocean floor full of plants and fish. They are surrounded by tiny, colorful fish and then crazy, intriguing fish. Their exploration is wonder-filled and reaches its climax when they meet a gigantic white whale, so big, it is only seen in part on the pages.
The two finally swim up to the surface, back up to the crowd of feet and floats. They emerge together on one side, as the still-colorless crowd leaves on the opposite. They greet each other without their swim caps and goggles and friendship has been confirmed.
I am incredibly intrigued by this book. I come away from every viewing with a smile, a sense of fulfillment, and several lingering questions. So let’s break down the reasons I think this book works as a wordless story.
First, that simple plot. It is equally small and mind-exploding at the same time. It combines effectively with the compositions to give ample space for movement and imagination.
Secondly, the pacing is on point. There is a consistent movement from left to right throughout the book, pulling you through the pages. But they also linger appropriately in greeting, and exploring, and wonder. The pacing also works with the slight hint of a Where the Wild Things Are template in how the illustrations grow from spare to enveloping over the course of the story and then lighten back out to emptiness. It is not as smooth a transition as Sendak’s masterpiece, but it accomplishes the feel of the depth of the adventure and imagination between the boy and girl.
Third, the art is beautiful and yet feels slightly unfinished. I’m not sure why this works so well, but I do think it adds a new layer to the beauty. The crowd of people are hilariously quirky in facial expression and bodies. There is a chaos even in the pencil strokes. And the main characters have that sketchy edge to them as well. Perhaps it is a nod to the obscure nature of underwater views, but the sometimes wonky look of their limbs and the fish they encounter is interesting as well as curious.
Lastly, the unexplained parts of the story keep me hooked. I love the way the story unfolds and the fact that it is wholly impossible and yet, fantastically marvelous! The story thinks like a child. Their imagination knows no bounds. Kids don’t care how or why it happens; they just love the adventure. This is a feeling I forget to dwell in with my grown-up, rational-thinking brain. The many unanswered questions that emerge are great fodder for discussion around the book.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at such a delightful import. The cover alone is breathtaking in my opinion. I cannot wait to see what other adventures await underneath the swimming mass. I hope you’ll dive into this one too. Happy Wednesday!