Interview with Jack Wong, debut creator and illustrator of WHEN YOU CAN SWIM (Orchard/Scholastic)

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, (黃雋喬) now calls Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) residence, the place he works as a youngsters’s creator/illustrator. A self-declared precise Jack-of-all-trades, he’s additionally tried his hand at bridge engineering, psychology analysis, bookkeeping, and working his personal bicycle restore store—an actual schooling for creating youngsters’s books, in the event you ask him! Via a various vary of tales, he seeks to share his hodgepodge journey with younger readers, in order that they could embrace the distinctive amalgams of experiences that make up their very own lives.

Yow will discover extra about Jack on his web site, on Twitter, and Instagram.

Written and illustrated by Jack Wong
Revealed by Orchard (Scholastic) on

A reverent celebration of studying to swim amongst a various solid of kids and households who every expertise the mysterious joys of water in nature. On this exploration of what it actually means to swim, expansive vignettes introduce sandpipers, tannin-soaked lakes, and the sensation of a small waterfall on sun-soaked shoulders. However what about those that are afraid of the water’s mysterious methods and resist studying to swim? Portray a compelling image of the various joys and surprises that the water holds, artist and creator Jack Wong has delivered an empowering, poetic journey that invitations youngsters to find their confidence inside to obtain the heat and marvel of the pure world.

Signed copies can be found for order at Woozles (Halifax)

A: The beginnings of this e-book got here to me over the course of 1 summer time after I felt notably attuned to nature, taking notes and sketches throughout varied hikes and tenting journeys. Really, that’s the very first thing I needed to share and make clear with younger and/or aspiring creators—I’m not at all times as attuned to nature as I’d prefer to be, and that’s OK (I believe!). I believe it’s completely regular to be drawn to one thing for some time, and likewise regular if that’s a section that passes. (On the very least, you’ll know the place a effectively of inspiration is if you wish to return to it.)

After that summer time, I revisited my journals and observed that a lot of my finest musings had been observations about some facet of being in water. I’ve to confess, although: I’m really not that robust or avid of a swimmer! So the writing course of from that time onward was like a negotiation with that materials: how do I take advantage of all this great things about swimming in nature, when part of me feels I don’t have the precise to?

I arrived at an overarching theme of “overcoming a reticence in direction of swimming,” I believe, as an analog to my very own reticence in direction of writing about swimming. It sounds extra meta than it truly is; I simply establish a lot with the little lady on the quilt and first/final pages, standing on the fringe of the water!

This e-book is, at face worth, in regards to the easy pleasure of swimming—however we all know that swimming is something however. The statistics present that folks of color, immigrants, and people with decrease socioeconomic means are much less prone to be taught to swim, and extra prone to drown—moreover, that is an intergenerational disparity, as a result of the youngsters of non-swimmers are much less prone to be taught, too. Towards these realities, I needed to attract youngsters of all colors (in addition to of various sizes, ages, skills and disabilities) having fun with the water collectively, to normalize the notion that swimming belongs to all of us. I really feel strongly that, as an creator/illustrator, a part of the that means I created within the e-book is located throughout the distinction between the photographs (which totally present inclusivity) and the phrases (which make no point out of it). My hope is that, when younger readers see this, the message they internalize is “any person else sees it as a provided that any person like me will get to swim.”

I hope readers of all ages additionally take pleasure, neighborhood, and a curiosity in direction of nature from studying this e-book. On that final level: as a result of the drawings I made had been so particular of their depictions of locations close to the place I stay, there was some extent within the illustration course of after I puzzled, “What if the reader’s neck of the woods seems utterly completely different from mine? Would the e-book be any much less fascinating or related in the event that they couldn’t stroll out their door and discover the identical issues? Ought to I make the imagery extra generalized?” I in the end concluded that, by leaning into specificity and element and displaying the reader one thing new and superb, what I’m really suggesting is that any inch of the pure atmosphere is wealthy and filled with its explicit wonders ready to be found—so go on the market and see what you discover!

I’m an creator/illustrator in the present day, however I wasn’t at all times—see my bio (and that’s simply the tip of the iceberg!). For any child who feels they’re not that one super-talented scholar within the class who’s clearly destined to be an artist, know that it’s OK to take the winding highway—you don’t should get there instantly. In actual fact, no matter blended bag of experiences I carry permits me to have the distinctive perspective that I’ve, which makes my artwork completely different from anybody else’s (and that’s true for all of us).

That results in my different piece of recommendation: artwork is all about synthesizing (a flowery approach of claiming “combining”) concepts—you might have heard the outdated saying, “there’s nothing new underneath the solar,” and it means it’s unlikely you’ll provide you with an concept that nobody has ever had earlier than. However in case you have two distinct pursuits, for instance (such as you’re into science, and likewise ballet), that’s a mix not everybody sees, and that mixture of present issues is a brand new creation in itself.

 I simply got here again from an incredible college tour for When You Can Swim! It was my first-ever expertise of presenting to lecture rooms(!) and I discovered it to be a few of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever skilled: to attempt to be the most effective model of myself for younger individuals and see in real-time the impression I’m making. So I’m actually hooked, and I’ve a brand-new part of my web site the place librarians & educators can discover information about my talking gig choices!

One other factor I’m enthusiastic about is IBBY Canada’s Studying with Newcomer Kids program. I started volunteering with this Toronto-based initiative when it went online-only throughout the pandemic lockdowns, however in-person readings are beginning up once more—and we’re now attempting to arrange this system in Halifax the place I stay! I’m enthusiastic about this program and really excited to see native immigrant and refugee youngsters in Halifax get paired up with volunteer readers, to encourage their love of studying and assist their journey of their new nation.

Additionally see different Interviews with Guide Creators and Recommendation For Younger Writers And Illustrators.