ilde Schuurmans was inspired to write Sidney Won't Swim by her dog, Zaki, who is terrified of water. Believe me, I can relate. I can still remember the moment in swimming class when the teacher pointed at me and commanded, "Float." But I couldn't float. Scared and embarrassed, I quit lessons and didn't learn to swim until I was in college. If only I'd been able to read Sidney Won't Swim, things might have turned out differently! "Swimming is the dumbest thing in the whole world!" Sidney, a dog of no particular breed, announces the day before swimming lessons are scheduled to begin. Mom tries to reassure him, and asks whether or not he's just a tiny bit scared.
Nope, declares Sidney. "I just think swimming is dumb."Sidney makes several attempts to avoid the moment of truth. He comes down with an unexpected tummy ache, conveniently leaves his swimming bag in the classroom and tries to hide so he'll miss the bus. Still, Sidney won't admit to his fear.
In the pool locker room, Sidney feels alone. Most of the other kids seem excited about jumping into the pool, but Sidney locks himself into a changing room. When at last he's coaxed to the pool, he tells Mr. Paul, the swimming teacher, that getting into the water is impossible, because, explains Sidney, "When I get wet, I turn into a huge monster!"Mr. Paul suggests that Sidney sit on the side and watch. But two of Sidney's friends want to see exactly what kind of monster Sidney will turn into and push him in. Luckily, Mr. Paul is right on the spot. Sidney and his friends learn a valuable lesson in pool safety and at the same time find a creative way to help Sidney begin to conquer his fear of water.
By the end, a happy Sidney is able to shout, "Swimming is fun!"Young readers who feel some trepidation about plunging into the pool themselves will most likely find Hilde Schuurmans' warm, cartoon-like animal characters reassuring. There's a rabbit with goggles and (clearly one of the most advanced pupils), a penguin. And who knows? Perhaps if my long-ago swim teacher had been more like Mr. Paul, a large, comforting polar bear, I would have been paddling around in the water a lot sooner.
Deborah Hopkinson eventually learned to swim in Honolulu, where she lived for many years before moving to Walla Walla, Washington.