Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

in the swim

in the swim

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture book
For ages 5 to 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2001   ISBN: 0152024379

For some people large bodies of water are fascinating places. Though we have mapped most of them, we don’t really know everything there is to know about these environments. We certainly don’t know about all the creatures that live in them, but we do know about some of them, and we are going to meet just a few of these creatures in the poems in this book.

   Douglas Florian is a poet who has a gift for injecting humor into his poems. Often this humor is quirky. For example, in the very first poem we meet a catfish whose tone sounds rather annoyed. The reason for its annoyance is that it wants to make it perfectly clear that it is a fish, not a cat. Nor, for that matter, does have any wish to be a cat.

   Next we meet a salmon and the poem is cleverly presented so that we have to read up the page, just as salmon have to swim upstream to spawn. The poem about the sawfish is also presented in a unique way. It is jagged, just like a saw, and we learn that a sawfish cannot cut “A two-by-four,” or “build a bed.” It has its “splendid” saw so that it can get its fish dinner and it eats the fish raw, which means that is doesn’t have to “do dishes.”

   The catfish is not the only aquatic creature that was given a name that really does not do it justice. The sea horse is another such animal. Seahorses have no hooves, they cannot race, and “have no legs / With which to chase.” In fact they are so unlike a real horse that their name is just plain “silly.”

   Douglas Florian has created so many wonderful poetry collections and this one is sure to entertain and delight readers, just as the others have done. Throughout the book the twenty-one poems are accompanied by wonderful paintings that have the same quirkiness that you find in the poems.