Interview with Jack Wong, debut writer 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 kids’s writer/illustrator. A self-declared precise Jack-of-all-trades, he’s additionally tried his hand at bridge engineering, psychology analysis, bookkeeping, and operating his personal bicycle restore store—an actual schooling for creating kids’s books, for those who ask him! By 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.

You’ll find 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 forged of kids and households who every expertise the mysterious joys of water in nature. On this exploration of what it really 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 writer Jack Wong has delivered an empowering, poetic journey that invitations kids 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 season after I felt significantly attuned to nature, taking notes and sketches throughout numerous hikes and tenting journeys. Really, that’s the very first thing I wanted to share and make clear with younger and/or aspiring creators—I’m not at all times as attuned to nature as I’d wish to be, and that’s OK (I believe!). I believe it’s completely regular to be drawn to one thing for some time, and in addition regular if that’s a part that passes. (On the very least, you’ll know the place a nicely of inspiration is if you wish to return to it.)

After that summer season, I revisited my journals and observed that lots of my greatest musings have been observations about some side of being in water. I’ve to confess, although: I’m really not that sturdy or avid of a swimmer! So the writing course of from that time onward was like a negotiation with that materials: how do I exploit all this good things about swimming in nature, when part of me feels I don’t have the proper to?

I arrived at an overarching theme of “overcoming a reticence in the direction of swimming,” I believe, as an analog to my very own reticence in the direction of writing about swimming. It sounds extra meta than it truly is; I simply determine a lot with the little woman on the duvet 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 more likely to be taught to swim, and extra more likely to drown—moreover, that is an intergenerational disparity, as a result of the youngsters of non-swimmers are much less more likely to be taught, too. Towards these realities, I wished to attract children of all colors (in addition to of various sizes, ages, talents 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 writer/illustrator, a part of the which means I created within the e-book is located inside the distinction between the photographs (which completely 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 “anyone else sees it as a on condition that anyone like me will get to swim.”

I hope readers of all ages additionally take pleasure, neighborhood, and a curiosity in the direction of nature from studying this e-book. On that final level: as a result of the drawings I made have been so particular of their depictions of locations close to the place I stay, there was a degree within the illustration course of after I questioned, “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 finally concluded that, by leaning into specificity and element and displaying the reader one thing new and wonderful, what I’m really suggesting is that any inch of the pure setting is wealthy and filled with its specific wonders ready to be found—so go on the market and see what you discover!

I’m an writer/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 must get there straight away. In actual fact, no matter blended bag of experiences I carry permits me to have the distinctive standpoint 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 will have heard the previous saying, “there’s nothing new underneath the solar,” and it means it’s unlikely you’ll give you an concept that nobody has ever had earlier than. However when you’ve got two distinct pursuits, for instance (such as you’re into science, and in addition ballet), that’s a mix not everybody sees, and that mixture of current 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 perfect model of myself for younger folks and see in real-time the affect 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 data about my talking gig choices!

One other factor I’m enthusiastic about is IBBY Canada’s Studying with Newcomer Youngsters program. I started volunteering with this Toronto-based initiative when it went online-only through 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 kids in Halifax get paired up with volunteer readers, to encourage their love of studying and help their journey of their new nation.

Additionally see different Interviews with E-book Creators and Recommendation For Younger Writers And Illustrators.