Review of Swing

by Michael Hall; illus. by the author
Preschool    Greenwillow    40 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-286617-2    $17.99

The title spread introduces a school — a place of learning and growth — where outside the classroom window a swing set stands empty and waiting. A letter L sits alone on one of four swings as the story begins. When letter V approaches, wanting to play, L rejects V for being “different” — V lives near the end of the alphabet, not the middle like L. The same pattern repeats when first E and then O try to join the fun: V (who has hopped on a swing, invited or not) rejects E for being a vowel, then E rejects O for not being “made up of straight lines” like the rest of them. As small tussles break out, O suggests, “Let’s just swing!” Their moods improve the higher they soar, and when they come back down, they’re “different” again…having become a group of friends (whose order on the swings just happens to spell the word LOVE). The text’s repetition and simple vocabulary are age-appropriate but also helpful in highlighting — along with the illustrations — the multiple facets of the story, with its focus not just on the alphabet but also on more abstract concepts such as kindness and acceptance of others. Minimal shapes for the face, arms, and legs of each letter add an impressive range of expression and emotion. Texture in the “digitally combined collages of painted and cut paper” stands out against the mainly white background; minimal details keep the focus for young viewers on the letters and their quintessentially childlike interactions.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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