Last night as I ordered 3 books from Amazon (this, this and this if you must know ;-)) I wondered what I would feel if the only bricks-and-mortar bookshop in our neighbourhood closed down. It’s not some wonderfully creative, enticing, independent bookshop but merely one of a very large chain. It’s main appeal for my girls is the fish tank in the children’s section and the number of books it contains with batteries and buttons you can press to make horrendous tinny noises.
That said, since our local library closed, it is a place we visit to read new books, and occasionally, in amongst the tv-tie-in books and electronic jingles, something turns up that really catches my eye. The Deep End by Rebecca Patterson is one book that recently did exactly that.
Perfectly capturing the quintessential features of learning to swim, this book will make you and your learner swimmer giggle and keen to get in the pool themselves. From the slightly chaotic changing rooms, to the refusal to jump into the water, from the seemingly crazy instruction to “keep our heads down and our bottoms up” to the curiosity about what exactly is below the grill covering the hole in the deep end, from the gloriousness that is singing under a warm shower to munching on a snack afterwards, the whole experience of attending a swimming lesson is beautifully and wittily observed.
Patterson’s brief text is full of well chosen phrases, acknowledging a child’s fear and celebrating her sense of achievement as she learns to float and then finally manages to swim all the way to the deep end. Like her text the illustrations are simple but perfect in the details they capture. There’s the inevitable plaster on the floor of the changing room and another one swimming loose in the pool (although no-one is wearing a verucca sock, the bane of my childhood swimming!) and I’m amazed at how well the expressions on the children’s faces are captured with just a few strokes of the pen.
Delightful, funny, truthful and reassuring – a perfect picture book whether or not you are learning to swim.
This is Rebecca Patterson’s debut picture book, and now I can’t wait to see what she creates next. You can read what inspired Rebecca to create this lovely book here (a pdf document).
We decided to hold our own swimming race inspired by The Deep End. Here’s what we did:
I cut them out (cutting silver foil is quite a delicate job and even for M at 6 it can be frustrating as the foil tears really easily) and then we chose our swimmers to race in a shallow tray of clean water.
I gave the girls two squeezy bottles (washing up bottles), one filled with washing up liquid, the other with water. The girls squeezed a small amount from each bottle between the legs of the swimmers (sorry about that sentence, it really doesn’t conjure up a pleasant image!) and they watched to see what happened.
The swimmer with washing up liquid between her legs sped off whilst the one with water between her legs didn’t go anywhere…
The girls repeated this several times to try and work out what was happening. Sometimes they used two bottles of water, sometimes two bottles of washing up liquid. They swapped swimmers to see if that made a difference to who sped off. Every time, the swimmer with washing up liquid between her legs was the one who sped off.
So… what was going on here?
It’s all to do with the surface tension of water. The washing up liquid causes the surface tension in the cut-out circle to drop. This in turn causes the swimmer to propel forward. Adding water to water doesn’t change the surface tension and so the swimmer paired with water drops doesn’t move forward.
Some tips if you’re going to try this at home. Cut your silver foil with a point at one end and a circular-ish cut out at the other end – this is where you want to drop your liquid. Every time you repeat this experiment you need clean water. If any washing up liquid is left in the water you re-use the race simply won’t take place.
Whilst racing our swimmers we listened to:
Other activities that would go well alongside this book include:
Disclosure: I received my copy of The Deep End gratis from the publisher. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion. I must also put on record my guilt. Even with this book which I thought was wonderful I didn’t support my local bookshop and feel with this admission I’ve probably jumped into the deep end of controversy. I get about a fifth of books I purchase from there, cost and stock being what drives me to buy online. Are you a better supporter of your local bookshop?