Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lollipop and Grandpa Go Swimming, by Penelope Harper & Cate James

Lollipop and Grandpa Go Swimming starts off in a general sort of way. It’s real and normal: Lollipop has a new swimsuit, inflatable armbands, and “the biggest towel Mum could find,” but she’s a bit nervous about getting in the pool: its big and full of children splashing and whooping, and Lollipop doesn’t know how to swim. Grandpa, though, knows how to take care of things. He takes Lollipop into the little pool first so that she can get used to things.

Then. Then they graduate to the big pool. And this is where the book descends into fantasy. Boom. The first thing that happens when Lollipop and Grandpa get into the big pool is an encounter with a giant octopus. The octopus is swiftly followed by a big blue whale, and then the discovery of sunken treasure, from which they are chased off by a bunch of nasty pirates. While to an adult this is clearly part of a game that Lollipop and Grandpa are playing, it is basically never explained as such, and no normal swimming or getting used to the big pool takes place around the fantasy. If I was a little tot being read this story, I would not want to go anywhere near the big pool afterwards. Most small children, it must be remembered, do not distinguish between what I know as real and not-real, and because here it is not specified what is and isn’t real, who’s to say there aren’t really giant octopi, whales, and mean pirates hiding under the still waters of a swimming pool?

I like the sketch style of the drawings in Lollipop and Grandpa Go Swimming, and the layout is fairly standard; I even like the intentions behind the story, but overall it did not ring true for me, and I was disappointed with the assumptions the writer makes. The only redeeming factor is found in the final pages, when Lollipop asks to stay for a few more minutes, indicating that despite the traumas she was actually having fun.

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