Review: Pool by Jihyeon Lee

What happens when two shy children meet at a very crowded pool? Dive in to find out! Deceptively simple, this masterful book tells a story of quiet moments and surprising encounters, and reminds us that friendship and imagination have no bounds.

I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I have a special place in my heart for wordless picture books. I particularly enjoy using them as writing and speaking prompts with my students, who range in age from preschoolers to adults. Wordless picture books encourage readers to explore imagery in greater detail, put complex pieces together, build their own narratives, and weave their own experiences, personalities and perspectives into the stories they create.

As you might imagine, then, I was thrilled when a copy of Pool appeared at my door, graciously provided by Raincoast Books. Pool is a beautiful example of the powerful potential of wordless picture books to inspire, engage and delight.

Author-illustrator JiHyeon Lee masterfully manipulates both space and colour to tell the story of two children who use their imaginations to create their own special world away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded pool.

As the story opens, the colour palette is muted, washed out and tired, but as the two children begin to build and explore their watery world, the scenes come brilliantly to life. The colour palette is still limited and the tones remain soft, but there is now a sense of vibrancy and joy to each scene. In a way it reminds me of the transition from sepia to colour in the classic film The Wizard of Oz, with a similar dramatic effect. Above the water, life is crowded, conventional, boring, and dull, but below the water, an entirely new world is revealed. There is a charming old-fashioned elegance to Lee’s illustrations that is refreshing in a market saturated with cartoonish, computer-generated children’s book illustrations. Lee’s mature style suggest a great respect for her audience – while her illustrations have a child-friendly sweetness, they are not in any way “babyish”, or “dumbed down”, as it were.

Because it is wordless, Pool would work beautifully with audiences of different ages and levels. It can be used to start conversation and inspire compositions, and I know that my school-aged students would likely interpret its story in very different ways than might my adult students. As the book’s description so accurately puts it, Pool is indeed deceptively simple. On the surface it’s the story of two children who create an imaginary world. But it can and should also be interpreted and enjoyed in other ways, which is precisely why the wordless picture book format is so magical. It would be a shame to limit the use of a book like Pool to very young children, when it can so easily and effectively be used with audiences of all ages.

Beautifully illustrated, quietly moving, and highly engaging, Pool is absolutely a title worth plunging into.


Hardcover, 56 pages
May 5, 2015 : Chronicle Books 
Source: Raincoast Books

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  • Reply Mommyhood Moments

    I seriously don’t think i’ve heard of a “wordless picture book” until now. I am going to be looking into these as learning tools for my daughter. I imagine it could seriously help with imagination and creativity by coming up with her own story. This seems like a really neat book! Thanks for linking up on Thoughtful Thursday! (:

    April 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm
    • Reply Jane the Raincity Librarian

      Wordless picture books are so much fun to use with kids. They rely on illustrations to tell stories, which makes them great for carefully looking through with young readers. It’s amazing to see how different kids will interpret the same pictures in different ways! Molly Idle is another author/illustrator who creates lovely wordless picture books – her “Flora” series is absolutely charming!

      April 21, 2017 at 12:57 am

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