Written and Illustrated by Leo Lionni
Swimmy is a short story about a little black fish named Swimmy. He loses his group of fish, and while he is on his own, he discovers so much in the ocean that he had never seen before. He is in awe of the animals he sees and the new experiences he has. Then one day he finds a new group of fish who are scared to explore. Swimmy teaches them to swim in a formation that looks like a big fish, so they are safe from predators, and they swim around the ocean exploring.
Leo Lionni was one of my favorite authors growing up; I have several of his books at home, including one special edition that includes 6 of his most popular books. One thing that always drew me into Lionni's books, were the beautiful illustrations. As a young reader, books with lots of words are very intimidating. Swimmy, a Caldacott winner, is a perfect example of this. The pictures clearly overpower the words; at times almost making it difficult to see the print. Lionni uses what look like water colors, stamps and collage to illustrate and tell his stories.
There are so many ways I could see using this book in the classroom. One would be to encourage the kids to write about an experience they had that was similar to Swimmy's. Some questions to ask them could be: Did you ever get lost from their group or their family while on vacation or shopping? How did you feel? Have you ever used teamwork like Swimmy and his new group of fish did when they swam in a special formation (ie playing soccer, on a scavenger hunt, playing group games in PE etc...)? Another way to use this book in an artistic way, would be to have the kids imitate Lionni's illustrations with ink stamps, water colors and collage.
One final thing I think kids could relate to with this book, is how Swimmy was scared and felt lonely, but learned so many new things, saw so many new animals and sites and made lots of new friends. It is possible that students feel lonely and apprehensive when first starting school, but reminding them and showing them that they can learn so much at school, they can see new things and make so many great new friends can be comforting.