Swimmy – An Enduring Classic celebrates 50 Years!

Do you know Swimmy by Leo Lionni? Did you read this as a child? It is hard for me to believe that this book is fifty, 50 !!! years old this year! Oh my. How time does fly!

Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Honor, this beloved tale of a brave little fish has been a favorite to generations of readers. To celebrate Swimmy’s fiftieth anniversary,  a handsome special edition hardcover that includes a bonus poster is being issued.

Swimmy, possibly the most charming little guppy we are ever likely to meet. How did it happen that he was the only one among his brothers and sisters who was born black instead of red? A faster fish than all of them, Swimmy has the mixed blessing of being able to out swim a big fish that has come to devour his family. Poor Swimmy is left all alone in the world, but this does not defeat him.

The undersea world is full of wonders, including Medusas made of rainbow jelly, a forest of seaweeds growing from sugar candy rocks, and sea anemones that look like, “pink palm trees swaying in the wind.” When Swimmy stumbles across another group of small red fish, his quick thinking helps them to band together to fight the larger fish in the sea.

It is amazing to me that a book that is so startlingly simple contains lessons so profound –  when people work together they can fight the big problems facing them; and being different, like Swimmy, can be a wonderful thing.

Leo Lionni wrote and illustrated more than 40 highly acclaimed children’s books. He received the 1984 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal and was a four-time Caldecott Honor Winner–for Inch by Inch, Frederick, Swimmy, and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse. Leo Lionni died in October of 1999 at his home in Tuscany, Italy, at the age of 89. When asked once where he got his ideas, he said ” …I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, hard work. ”

There is a beauty  and a simplicity to these watercolors that is difficult to find anywhere else.  As much as we have advanced our capabilities in computer generated drawing and animation, I still think that Swimmy is a true testament to the beauty of art as created by one’s own hands.

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