HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Author and Illustrator: Leo Lionni
Publisher: Dragonfly Books, republished in 1973
ISBN-13: 978-0394817132 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0394817133 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0394826202 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0394826205 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lionni, Leo. Swimmy (published in 1963 by Knopf Books for Young Readers). A happy school of little fish lives in a corner of the sea somewhere. However, one day a fierce and hungry tuna fish comes and in one gulp swallows all the fish except one. Only Swimmy escapes. At first he is scared, lonely, and sad. But he sees many wonderful creatures in the sea and eventually finds another school of little fish just like his own. However, what will they do when threatened by still another big fish which wants to eat them? This Caldecott Honor Book with its simple poetic language and exquisite pictures shows children how, with ingenuity and team work, they can overcome danger and fend off a big, bad bully. It would also work well with young students studying the ocean.
A couple of reviewers objected to the way that all the little fish except Swimmy get eaten in the first few pages of the book, feeling that it is too heavy for a kid’s book and might give children nightmares. I suppose that if you have exceptionally sensitive children, this might be a good book to avoid. However, my reaction is that this is what really happens in the sea—fish eat other fish. And I found Swimmy a wonderful example of how we shouldn’t let any bad things which happen to us sour us on life altogether but should draw upon our experiences in helping others work together to fight off oppression. Leo Lionni wrote and illustrated more than forty highly acclaimed children’s books, including A Color of His Own, Fish is Fish, Tico and the Golden Wings, An Extraordinary Egg, and three other Caldecott Honor Winners Inch by Inch, Frederick, and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, before his death in 1999.