Caldecott Book – Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Part I

Lionni, L. (1968). Swimmy. New York: Pantheon.


Genre: Children’s Literature

Grade Level: Preschool – 2nd Grade

Age Range: 3-7 years 

Part II

Crafts: There are several craft ideas that can be used for this book. Some that come to mind are fish-making crafts using paper plates and water colors, underwater dioramas, and creating an actual fish tank with different colored/size fish (this could categorize under science, too). 

Connections/Summary: This book reminds me of the book The Rainbow Fish (1999) by Marcus Pfister. I used to read that book as a child so I was excited to read Swimmy. I thought the book was going to be about a little fish in the big ocean; I was correct for the most part. Swimmy, the black fish, was a part of a school of red fish. He was the only black fish and he swam faster than all of his brothers and sisters. A tuna fish comes in one day and eats all of his brothers and sisters. He’s left all alone to find his way throughout the ocean. The book goes on to describe all the amazing things he sees throughout his trip until he stumbles upon another school of red fish. They were afraid and hiding so he came up with the idea of forming a large fish out of all of the fishes (he would be the eye of the fish). Together, they scared away the big fish and weren’t afraid anymore. 

Part III

Critique: This book was written in the late 60s during the end of the Civil Rights Movement. The plot of this book can be evaluated as an empowering book for race because of the close detail to color (the only fish left alone was black). The little black fish swam through the ocean and empowered the other fish he found that were afraid. Many kids probably wouldn’t fully understand this theme, but it is so incredibly powerful to read as an adult and make that comparison. I think this book sends a positive message to children to not fear the unknown and to work together to conquer fears and live a full life! The style of this book has mainly paintings but several sentences on some of the pages. The book would probably have to be read to younger children (PreK-1st grade) and can be read silently by older children (2nd-3rd grade).

Part IV

Discussion Questions:

1. Why wasn’t Swimmy afraid when he was left alone after his brothers and sisters were eaten?

2. What other creatures might have Swimmy seen while exploring the ocean?

3. Why did the school of fish listen to Swimmy at the end of the book?

Lesson Plan for 4th graders:

Objective: Given information about several organizations that help save oceanic wildlife, students will write an essay to government officials discussing current problems in oceanic life, current solutions/ways to help said organizations, and a way that they can get involved in helping the cause. Students will be graded based on the Language Arts standards for this grade level.


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.3 Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).


This site has a guide for various lesson plans for many of Lionni’s books! AMAZING source!   &

These sites have information on organizations that promote saving oceanic wildlife for the lesson provided!

This site has some more lesson plans using Swimmy and Lionni’s books in general. 


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