Mirrors Windows Doors
Celebrating Diversity in a whole World of Children's and YA Literature
Zeki is off to his baby swimming class with his Daddy. Safe within his father’s arms, he clearly loves the water, splashing and playing alongside all the babies with their mums or dads.
There is a finely-tuned attention to detail in the book’s production that makes it very special. There is the immediate impact of the illustrations: Zeki is adorable. All the babies are smiley – as, in fact, are their parents. The book exudes a sense of security and bonding – and it’s not just at the swimming pool. And then there’s the narrative, which begins the night before the lesson, with Zeki enjoying his bath and a bed-time story. I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favourite illustration, but perhaps this is it (although I know I’m biased when it comes to books!).
The language is simple (but not overly simple), with one sentence to a page – and some onomatopoeia that invites even very young children to participate. I love the squareness of the book and its baby-friendly rounded corners. In fact, it makes a nice step-up from a board book, which is good since Zeki Can Swim! not only makes a perfect baby book, but will also be loved by older pre-schoolers. And I recommend it, too, for siblings who are learning to read and may wonder what their brother or sister gets up to when they are at school.
Zeki Can Swim! puts the spotlight on a father bonding with his baby – and the ratio of two dads to four mums at the swimming class works well.
As we have come to expect from Alanna Books, racial diversity is a given. Without labouring the point, together they represent a realistic blend of the ethnic diversity to be found in many places across the UK . The focus here is on a universal human experience of babies revelling in their discovery of the world from within the security of the love that surrounds them. For Zeki, one of those experiences is going to the swimming pool – and despite the exertion that involves, Zeki Can Swim! is also a perfect bedtime story because at the end, all that exertion means Zeki falls asleep!
The Tiger Tales
As you know we are fond of books that feature diverse characters and topics. It’s extra special to see a non-white character on the cover of book. We were also sent a copy of Zeki Loves Baby Club. I was especially pleased about that because Valentina commandeered the Lulu books we received the last time. Her argument was that there’s a girl on the cover so the book must be for her. Now both kids are happy to have books they can cuddle up to on their own time, when I’m not reading to them book.
Anna’s Zeki books are illustrated by Ruth Hearson a different illustrator to her Lulu books. However Zeki has the same adorable features and details. Angelo and Valentina think he’s SO cute! The books present a cast from various racial backgrounds. Although they are not books about race. They are capture moments in time of a Baby Zeki’s life while showing people he meets along the way. The stories are likely to appeal more to children 3 – 5 years old.
Zeki Loves Baby Club is a lovely story. It follows a day in the life of Zeki as he goes off to Baby Club. My two kids still have fond memories of their trip to the local children”s centre. They could relate to the events taking place, all the songs and games. In this book, Anna introduces children to the sound of foreign languages via the simple universal greetings ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The back cover also has the added treat of words to nursery rhymes like ‘Rolly Polly’ and ‘Peek-a-Boo’.
The new book Zeki Can Swim came out just in time for the summer holidays. I adore this book because it puts Zeki’s dad in the frame. I treasure books that feature dad’s. It almost feels like a treat and it shouldn’t be. Zeki’s dad takes him swimming. There are sound, ‘splish’ ‘sploosh’ words and action words ‘kick’ ‘swoosh’ kiddies will love and be encouraged to get animated too. My favourites are the tender moments between Zeki and his dad. Its fantastic to see a dad in a nurturing role.
Zeki is the famous Lulu’s young brother, and while his beloved sister ‘loves the library’, Zeki is about to have his first swimming lesson. Zeki is accompanied by a loving father who oversees the activity from the donning of the swim nappy and swim trunks to the shower and soaping after the swim.
After all the kicking, splashing and singing there is no problem getting Zeki to sleep at home. A delightful multicultural mixture of fun, nurture and best practice water–safety. Suitable for age one and up.
Zeki is back...and this time, Dad has taken him to the pool! Swim nappy on, this little fish is all ready for the toddler/parent swim class with its kicking, splishy splashy sing-along and water piggybacks!.
"I loved this book! Lovely topic, lovely families, lovely images, just lovely! Rich diversity on every page" Meryl, EY Consultant, LL reviewer.
"A feel good book. Very multicultural with bold bright coloured illustrations" Ann Marie, EY Safeguarding Consultant, LL reviewer.
Children's Books Ireland
Zeki Can Swim concerns a little boy’s trip to a swimming pool with his dad and the other children in his swimming class. As is to be expected with modern story books, the illustrations contain children of all ethnicities. But what is particularly noticeable in this book is that the babies are lifelike and truly adorable. Big brothers and sisters will be as captivated by the characters and their antics as toddlers will be. In fact, this is a perfect book for early readers to read and discuss with younger siblings, thereby benefiting both parties.
The story progresses through changing into a swimsuit, sitting on the poolside, sliding gently into the water and the fun of splashing and singing in the pool. It is a happy story with such wonderfully vivid illustrations that readers might want to keep a towel handy in case Zeki splashes water out of the pages onto them. Even the language is suitably wet, containing words such as swish, splish, splashy and sloshy. Children love onomatopoeia and there is plenty here to get their tongues dancing and giggling.
This book perfectly encapsulates the efforts of various organisations to encourage us to make our children and young people more water-safety aware. It is aimed at pre-schoolers’ early learning, but it would also be suitable for discussion with young school-age children, especially as an introduction to swimming for those not au fait with pools.
The Letterpress Project - review by Karen Argent
I love picture books that make no apologies for stating what they are all about on the cover, particularly when they make a positive statement. So, in the tradition of her many other books for very young children, Anna McQuinn lets the reader know with the bold orange wavy title that this is all about a child who can do something. The picture on the cover of the smiling little boy, Zeki is centre stage reaching out with adult hands to support him in the water.
Zeki is the younger brother of Lulu who has a series of wonderful books all about her busy but very ordinary life and so far he has starred in Lulu Loves Zeki where his big sister introduces him to the world of books, and Zeki Loves Baby Club where he strikes out into his own exciting social world with his mum as his guide. He has a typical busy baby life and in this new story, inspired by his love of water in the bath, we see him preparing to go to a swimming class with his daddy. Books are always an important theme in all Anna's stories so it is no surprise to see them sharing one about a seahorse before they set off. Nothing unexpected happens in this story but, after all, the new routine of wearing a swim nappy, storing belongings in a locker is novel enough. Everybody smiles and looks very relaxed throughout the book and the tense anticipation of all the different babies facing out as they sit on the edge of the pool is tangible.
Every stage of the swimming lesson is an important experience but the joy of kicking and splashing is the most delightful and the onomatopoeic swishing and swooshing, splashing and splooshing through the water makes me want to join in, quite an achievement as I am no great lover of swimming pools!
So this a story about swimming but mostly it is a story about little Zeki having a fun time with his father. When it's time to get dry afterwards there are other interesting new experiences with the shower, having lotion applied and then enjoying a snack and a drink afterwards (or a sleep in Zeki's case - still looking very happy). Perhaps it is a touch romantic as my own memories of taking my children swimming involved a few tears, chasing them round the changing room because they wouldn't sit still to be dried and feeling quite exhausted afterwards, but maybe they were a bit older than Zeki.
This is a splendid little book with gorgeous strongly coloured illustrations that portray a mixed group of children and adults in a naturally inclusive manner. These complement the few very carefully chosen words in the text that should be enjoyed and understood by any young child. I can't wait to share it with my grand daughter who already loves going swimming with her dad and I really look forward to seeing her beaming smile as she recognises her own experience in a book.
Parents in Touch
Daddy is going to take Zeki to his swimming lesson tomorrow, so it's time for a splash-around in the bath first. The book describes and illustrates just what little ones can expect to happen in their swimming lesson, so it makes a great introduction before the first lesson, which can be quite scary for a young child. Then it's time to get dressed and have a snack in the cafe as the new friends get together. It's great to see the variety of families depicted, and the sheer exuberant joy which shines through the pictures will make swimming lessons very enticing - as well as being essential to ensure children learn water safety.
Takes a situation familiar to so many young families - baby swim classes - and makes it into a lovely storybook that little ones will love sharing with their grown ups. I love the diverse range of families, making this a great read for _everyone_ . How great, too, to see that it's Dad who takes baby swimming (and is seen reading to the child, as well as enjoying a well earned coffee & cake in a cafe after swim group!). Cheerful, colourful illustrations with lots of warmth and smiles perfectly capture happy family and friends time. Delightful!
Let them be small review site
Another that has been very popular is Zeki Can Swim!. Mr D loves this book and after reading it he promptly looked at the back to see the other titles in the series and declared that we needed them all. I thought this might be too young for him, but he loved it. He took great joy in recognising himself in this story; he started swimming lessons last October as he turned three and he recognises himself in Zeki.
Books that do this are so powerful for helping children learn and see their part in the world. We will read this more and more as Miss E approaches her turn to take up swimming lessons early next year. It is a lovely book that is simple but effective and with beautiful illustrations by Ruth Hearson.
The Willsden Bookshop
This is one of two new books by the author of 'Lulu Loves the Library'. Once again, the lovely illustrations convey the tenderness and physicality of the parent-child bond. Here, a sequence of pictures shows Zeki (Lulu's baby brother) and his father getting ready for swimming club before joining other baby and adult pairs (diverse in skin tone and ethnicity) for the regular class at the pool. They have great fun with simple exercises and there is lots of singing and splashing. After this energetic session, once dried and dressed, Zeki is quick to fall asleep. The book has enlarged text and toddler-friendly strong laminated pages with rounded corners.
US Edition - reviews
Read Brightly - review site
8 Sweet Picture Books That Celebrate Fatherhood - by Liz Lesnick
Leo Can Swim is the perfect gift from the littlest swimmers to their dads. Readers follow Leo and his dad as they get ready for swim class, from putting on swim diapers and getting in the pool, to drying off and having a snack. With its gentle tone and sweet pictures, this small read will soothe the fears of anxious beginning swimmers (and their dads!).
Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Jennifer Schultz
With Father’s Day fast approaching, it’s time to bring out our favorite books about fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other father figures. If you’re looking for some new additions to add to your collection, displays, or book lists, consider these recently published titles:
Anna McQuinn’s Leo series is a charmer. Now that we’ve tagged along while Leo enjoyed a babies program (similar to a lapsit story time) and a story from big sister Lola, it’s time to join him on a big outing–baby swim class! Dad and Leo have fun kicking, splashing, and just getting comfortable in the big pool. Now that pool season is in full swing, Leo Can Swim is an adorable story to share with your toddler story time groups.
Midwest Book Review
Ruth Hearson's delightfully charming illustrations transform author Anna McQuinn's simple and elegantly entertaining story into a 'must' for young children ages 1 to 3. Simply stated, "Leo Can Swim" is unreservedly recommended for family, preschool, and community library collections.
Story Time Secrets
- Katie Fitzgerald
As in Leo Loves Baby Time, artist Ruth Hearson uses soft colors and warm, cheerful faces to illustrate Leo's story. The pictures show diverse parent/child pairings - moms and dads, with boys and girls - enjoying themselves at swim class. The pages alternate
between close-ups of Leo and his friends and group scenes of the babies going "swish and swoosh" and "splish and sploosh" in the pool, and later, washing off and heading out for a snack.The art perfectly suits the text, and the target age group, who would certainly enjoy looking at these images during story time.
The straightforward text is very easy to read aloud, and it works nicely as an introduction to swim class for young children about to attend for the first time.
Its focus on father/son bonding, make it a perfect choice for dads to read aloud to their babies, and also a good option for Father's Day story times.
This book is a great fit for this summer's On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! theme. It will
appeal to fans of the previous Leo book, as well as to any family taking an infant to
swim lessons this summer.
Leo is back (Leo Loves Baby Time, 2014, etc.), and now he happily attends a community swim class with Daddy.
“Leo loves the water. He is like a little fish!” A smiling Leo is in sudsy bath water, his dark, curly head and brown body held up by a pair of strong, brown, adult arms. As the story continues, readers see Leo and Daddy interact lovingly throughout, from sitting together on a big chair—viewing a swim-class brochure—to changing into proper swim attire in the locker room and taking part in a class that features a pool full of other happy baby-and-adult pairs. The range of skin and hair types is commendable, even including one adult-child combination of nonmatching skin. Getting used to the off-center noses of the babies requires a little time—probably more for adults than children. The text has some sentences that will sound delightful to little ears as little eyes view the water babies: “They swish and swoosh. They splish and sploosh.” The tender and competent care given to Leo by his father is reason enough to praise this book. Also, like its predecessor, the codex itself has rounded corners and strong, resilient paper to accommodate its audience. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it parallels babies’ and toddlers’ tendencies to play hard and suddenly run out of energy.
A welcome addition to the toddler bookshelf. (Picture book. 1-3)
Here Wee Read - review site
I literally could not wait to share this book with my kids during story time! It’s extremely well done and super cute! Once I finally read it with the kids they wanted to read it over and over again – no kidding!
We first met Leo in his older sister Lola’s book
Lola Reads to Leo, part of the Lola at the Library series. Now little Leo is back in his own spin-off series and he’s making a big splash in this adorable new picture book for babies and toddlers.
What I love most about this book is the fact that Leo’s father accompanies him to swim class instead of his mother. You often hear of many Black fathers being absent from their children’s lives, so it was refreshing to see Leo and his father bonding – so precious. I also love how well this book showcases diversity. There are babies and caregivers of all different skin tones and hair types/colors featured throughout.
This book was very familiar to the kids as we’ve taken a swim class before as a family. We followed the same sequence of events from getting ready in the changing room to kicking and splashing in the pool. So fun!
Other reasons why we adore this book:
School Library Journal
Leo (of Lola Reads to Leo fame) loves the water. In preparation for an upcoming swim class, the toddler and his dad read a book that gives a nod to Eric Carle's Mister Seahorse, then head off to the pool for baby/parent swim time. The families represented are of multiple ethnicities. At swim class, the children learn how to kick and splash, and Leo gets a fun ride on his daddy's back. Many children have loved other stories by McQuinn that feature Leo's older sister Lola (Lola Loves Stories), and this offering is no less delightful. Hearson's colorful acrylic illustrations are as fun and playful as the text. VERDICT A solid choice for preschool storytime or one-on-one sharing, especially to introduce a swim class or lesson.