I first picked up Pool by JiHyeon Lee because it was The Original Art Gold Medal Winner, and yes, the illustrations are gorgeous. What I found sticking with me, though, is the story. “But it’s a wordless book,” some might say. I hear a lot about wordless books, and that people don’t know what to do with them. The beauty of this book’s story is that it’s about a quiet boy (the inside jacket says “shy”, but after reading Susan Cain‘s work, I prefer to call him quiet) who wants to swim, but it’s so crowded, he doesn’t know how to join in. The story is perfectly married to the wordless format, because the way the boy finds his way is under the crowd of swimmers, where the solemn and expansive space underwater is a journey all its own–a quiet journey.
Wordlessly, this book invites us to contemplate what happens, and sometimes the contemplation can happen more easily when there are no words to get in the way. As JiHyeon Lee says, “This is a picturebook without words. I did not intend to leave out words from the beginning. It was just that as the story unfolded with images, I came to realise that the images were enough. The absence of words means the readers can make up their own stories, in any way they like.” (Picture Book Makers)