Thursday, January 17, 2008


What was your favorite book as a child?

In my case, you’ll get different answers depending on who you ask. My mom insists my favorite book was “Harry the Dirty Dog,” which I remember well but not as my favorite. The one that stands out for me was “Swimmy,” by Leo Lionni.

Swimmy is about a black minnow who lives in a giant school of red minnows. He knows he’s different and feels ostracized - until the other minnows are all eaten by a giant fish. He swims alone in the sea until he comes to a new school of red minnows, and devises a scheme to protect them: They swim in formation to look like an even bigger fish, with black Swimmy representing the eye.

I loved this book because it was all about being different and yet working with others and finding your place. It seems like such a ‘60s message, and in fact it was published during that decade of the civil rights struggle and burgeoning individuality. The artwork is also terrific - pastel watercolor block prints of undersea life, from jellyfish to lobsters to giant toothy fish.

I still give “Swimmy” to the children of my friends. I’m happy to say it’s still in print.

(Photo: Coney Island, June 2007)


Anonymous said...

Have you seen Gary's blog about fish reading? Very cool symmetry!

My fav book was Harold and His Purple Crayon. I also loved The Secret Garden. Those two books were very accurate predictors of my grown-up life. Wow.

Anonymous said...

My favorite book was The Big Golden Book of Poetry it was chock full of famous poems and great illustrations.

My sisters might claim that my favorites were: Dr. Suesse (Gertrude McFuzz was a huge favorite--you must read it! It is in "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories." ) or Alice in Wonderland.

Now I have to read Swimmy and Harold and His Purple Crayon.

Anonymous said...

I love that you dedicated a post to this children's book! And I love the timing.

Swimmy is not a book that I knew when I was a child. I only discovered it when I became a teacher and fell in love with the message behind it. You have provided a wonderful description here and I should really link to you since I was not so detailed in my own.

I think Swimmy will be in print always. Leo has tons of books out there and they are all popular.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the synopsis of Swimmy. I can see the appeal to such a story. I'll have to find it in the library. When I was very young I loved Chicken Little, and I'm not sure why that book appealed to me so much, but it did. Like Reya, another fav was Harold and His Purple Crayon, that was so full of play. I collect children's picture books and here are a couple of my current favorites: The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher and The Dot. They're worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

Harold and the Purple Crayon is one of my favorites as well. Who can resist that one. I love when he draws up the covers. Such possibilities.

Zapped - The Dot is AMAZING. Great call!

Anonymous said...

i don't know this book, or Leo Lionni - must look out for it to add to my own collection.

too hard to think of favourites - i loved Little Mrs Pepperpot, and Horton hatches the egg, and Oscar Wilde's fairy stories (esp. the Happy Prince) ....
among lots of others....

Anonymous said...

By far my favorite is "Where the Wild Things Are". ;-)

Anonymous said...

hey ste! happy new year to you!
i loved the velveteen rabbit, and like letty also loved mrs pepperpot, and the magic faraway tree, and mr meddles muddles, and the worst witch and and so many! happy prince is one of my favourite ever.
hope you're swell