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Before summer ends, let's squeeze in one last trip to 'Our Pool'

Lucy Ruth Cummins

How do you get into the pool? Are you the "jump-right-in" type? Or the "one-toe-at-a-time" type? We're closing out the summer with Our Pool — a joyful, colorful, picture book ode to the rituals of the neighborhood pool — the "cachunk" of the lockers, the sliminess of the sunblock, the splash of the cannonballs.

/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Author and illustrator Lucy Cummins loves to take her son swimming and their perfect pool days inspired this book. "Nate and I had had a particularly great day," Cummins recalls. "He made friends in the pool. It's so interesting to watch children just kind of make those connections, even if they're just for that day."

Nate is 8 now, and he still loves to lock his arms around his mom's neck and "float behind her like a cape." Cummins' illustration shows a parade of kids hanging onto their grownups winding through pool. She spells out "big m o o n m a n steps" to slow readers down, giving them the feeling of being dragged through the water.

/ Lucy Ruth Cummins
Lucy Ruth Cummins

The New York City pool in Cummins' book is a bustling, diverse, neighborhood space. "I'm telling the story of a day with Nate and I at the pool," Cummins says, but any of these kids could be the book's narrator — and that's on purpose. "I hope it comes across that it's kind of the day anyone can have — and that we're all having," she says.

Universal experiences and shared spaces are part of the magic of city living. When Cummins became a parent in New York City she began to appreciate "how the community is shaped around bringing people together — like libraries and playgrounds and public parks and public swimming pools. I've had so many friendships that have started just kind of incidentally, through interactions that my kids have initiated."

/ Lucy Ruth Cummins
Lucy Ruth Cummins

Cummins made the art for Our Pool in 2019. By the time she was writing the text it was the middle of the pandemic and the pool was closed.

"I went from having a very open world and a very connected experience of living in a city alongside other parents, and suddenly that all closed in," she recalls.

Cummins brought the book to her editor not knowing if she would ever swim in a public pool again. "It was really putting a wish into the universe, especially as a parent." She's so grateful that wish came true.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rose Friedman
Rose Friedman is an Associate Editor for NPR's Arts, Books & Culture desk. She edits radio pieces on a range of subjects, including books, pop culture, fine arts, theater, obituaries and the occasional Harry Potter-check-in. She is also co-creator of NPR's annual Book Concierge and the podcast recommendation site Earbud.fm. In addition, Rose has edited commentaries for the network, as well as regular features like This Week's Must Read on All Things Considered.