CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 21 . . . . February 2, 2018
Today's society is filled with a wide variety of 'families'. Swimming with Seals portrays a seven-year-old girl who is living with her gram and her great aunt with an occasional visit with her birth mother.
Every summer, Ally flies to visit her aunt Kate, her mom's older sister, and her uncle Robbie who live in a city by the ocean. Ally loves the ocean, especially swimming. During her visit, she constantly asks questions about her mom. "Has my mom ever slept on a boat?", "Does my mom know these stories?", "Does my mom like to swim?" On the day her mom comes for a visit, Ally has the chance to swim together with the seals. After a wonderful day together, her mom holds her daughter tight and tells her how she loved swimming with her more than anything. The story ends with Ally returning to live with her gram and great aunt.
Swimming with Seals is a personal story based on the author's niece. Jeanie, and her sister, Sarah, who went missing in Vancouver in 1998. The book narrates Ally's brief but happy visit with her mom. The intended audience is listed as ages 4 to 8. Young children of this age would likely be filled with questions about Ally's situation and why she has such short visits with her mom. This might result in a child's feeling confused and unsure. Although thousands of children are separated from their birth parents, this topic needs to be dealt with sensitivity and awareness of a young child's circumstances and feelings. For this reason, this story would be recommended with reservations. In the right setting, the simplicity of the story and the warmth of the multimedia artwork by illustrator Janice Kun would provide a special reading experience to share between a child and a caring adult. Swimming with Seals would also be a useful springboard for discussing types of families with older children and a good lead-up to motivate personal story writing.
Recommended with Reservations.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.