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The Picture Book Buzz

Together We Swim AND Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam! - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Today's Perfect Picture Book post is a double header. Valerie Bolling has two wonderful picture books releasing back to back this month. And I just had to feature both of these fun sequels.

Cover - Mother holding hands of young boy in floaties learning to swim.

Together We Swim

Author: Valerie Bolling

Illustrator: Kaylani Juanita

Publisher: Chronicle Books (2023)

Ages: 3-5



Swimming, fear, determination, family time, and encouragement.


A joyful, encouraging ode to a mother and son's relationship and the unforgettable experience of a child's first swimming lessons.

Jumping into the water can be more than a little scary! But with Mom's steady arms there's no fear of sinking. With a kick, a splash, and his family's cheers of encouragement, one determined boy finds his groove, making waves in this fun-filled day at the pool.

Embrace the feeling of accomplishment in this joyous, reassuring story about perseverance and new experiences. With lyrical rhyming text and vibrant illustrations, Together We Swim is destined to become a family read-aloud favorite!

Opening lines:

Toe dip,

Side grip.

What I LOVED about this book:

Featuring the family from Together we Ride (where the girl masters bike riding), now it's the young brother's turn to master a skill - swimming. Using the same sparsely worded, rhyming text format, Valerie Bolling follows a floaty-wearing, fearful, yet determined, boy as he struggles to learn to swim.

I love that from the moment he dips his toe in the water and clings to the side of the pool, his family is cheering him on. And I love Kaylani Juanita's geometric capture of the water, the soft colors, and the joy radiating from the family as they spend time together.

Internal Spread- boy holding onto pool edge while mom, sister, and dad cheer and float along the pool edge.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Kaylani Juanita, 2023.

There's nothing quite like watching your whole family swimming to make you want to keep trying - from the safety of your pool noodle, of course.

Internal spread - left side boy floating in a u-shaped pool noodle watches mom, dad, and sister swim. Right side boy still  supported by pool noodle  pumps his arms.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Kaylani Juanita, 2023.

Even when things get scary, and he sinks, Mom's loving presence, patience, and confidence helps him keep trying. It's a fun book for young kids, demonstrating some of the elements needed to tie together to succeed in swimming. A reminder that to get better at anything, you have to practice. And a gorgeous capture of a fun family time at the pool. Wonderful details and textures are layered throughout the illustrations - I especially love the kid's dinosaur swim bags. It's a wonderful read-aloud celebrating family time and persistence.


Edible pool craft of cookies and pretzels form people and floaties in a jello mold

- make an edible pool party and then enjoy eating it with friends or family.

- what activity or craft have you had to practice or work at to master?

- pair this with Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London, Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker, and Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn.

Two-toned blue wave seperating book reviews.

Cover - Musicians jamming at a neighborhood party.

Bing, Bop, Bam, Time to Jam!

Author: Valerie Bolling

Illustrator: Sabrena Khadija

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed (2023)

Ages: 3-5


Music, instruments, joy, jamming together, and community.


A joyful, rhyming celebration of music and community, Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam! is an upbeat picture book from the creators of Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun! that follows nine children as they help plan a big musical block party.

Sounds soar!

Tunes galore.

Music trance . . .

Gotta dance!

Author and educator Valerie Bolling’s rhyming text makes for a rollicking read aloud and features instruments from all around the world, including agogô, banjo, daegeum, djembe drums, double bass, erhu, maracas, piano, steel drums, and trumpet. Sabrena Khadija’s stunning, colorful illustrations depict the joy of dancing, playing music, and feasting with neighbors and friends. Readers will clamor to plan jam sessions of their own!

Opening Lines:

Time to plan

our neighborhood jam!

Flyers hung

by old and young.

What I LOVED about this book:

The nine wonderfully active, diverse, and collaborative friends from Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun! are back! And they are helping their community get ready for their "neighborhood jam" - a rocking block party.

Internal spread - kids helping adults post and hand out fliers for the block music party.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2023.

Once again, Sabrena Khadija's bright, bold colors team up with Valerie Bolling's rhyming couplets to create a fun and energetic look at musical instruments from around the world. All of which are wonderfully detailed in the end papers.

End papers - Collection of instruments in the book, including agogô, banjo, daegeum, djembe drums, double bass, erhu, maracas, piano, steel drums, and trumpet.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2023.

When the party begins, the rhyme sings with sounds from the various instruments - like "Twitter-tweet/ Smooth and sweet." and "Zing, zang/ Twing, twang." As each musician and instrument is featured, the kids and their families participate or dance along. Until the musician's finale, when all nine join in the call for an encore.

Internal spread - nine kids in the foreground cheering on the musicians in the block party band.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2023.

Though this is the end for the neighborhood block party, it is just the beginning for these inventive friends and hopefully the readers. You'll have to get the book to see how Valerie Bolling and Sabrena Khadija create the perfect ending for this block party musical jam. It's a wonderful book to introduce some fun (and few lesser known) instruments. A pure treat for the oral, auditory, and visual senses. And a celebratory party of friendship, community, and collaboration.


Three instruments that can be made from recyled instruments - shakers, rain stick, and thumb banjo.

- make your own instruments and create your own band, with directions for 27 instruments from recycled materials.

- explore other unusual and fun instruments from around the world.

- what ordinary or "found" items (pots, garbage lids, branches, etc.) can you use to make music?

- pair with Natsumi by Susan Lendroth and Wild Symphony by Dan Brown.

If you missed the interview with Valerie Bolling on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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