11 December 2009

Clem Always Could

by Sarah Watt

Lothian Children’s Books. Australian, Picture, Young Reader. Paperback rrp $16.99

Clem is a child who can do anything and doesn’t need to be taught. Like most young children – he’s an expert at everything! But unfortunately for Clem, when he is taken to the local swimming pool to learn to swim, it is a different matter. For the first time in his short life he is afraid and he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t do something!

Clem’s mum gently reminds him of all the wonderful things that he can do and how he had to learn them. But Clem disagrees.

Clem shook his head. ‘I always could.’

Sarah Watt’s brilliant watercolour illustrations are simple but striking. They cleverly show the changes in Clem’s view of the world. In the beginning the pool is spread over two pages - big, scary and dark with evil lurking at the bottom. The swimmers are only small, lost in the enormous expanse of water. But as Clem grows braver, Watt’s images reflect Clem’s new outlook. The pool shrinks until it is an oasis of pale blue and white, perfectly in proportion with the children splashing about there.

Clem Always Could is a wonderfully illustrated book following a young child’s personal growth as he builds the confidence to overcome his fears. When the swimming class jumped in I had to blink and rub my glasses because I thought I saw the water smudging them!

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