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Children's Fiction Alternative Family

Swimming with Seals Read-Along

by (author) Maggie de Vries

illustrated by Janice Kun

read by Heather Gould

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Apr 2018
Alternative Family, Multigenerational, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
  • Reading age: 3 to 5


Ally isn't able to live with her mother. Instead she lives far, far away, on the other side of the country, with her gram and great-aunt. But one summer Ally goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in the "big city by the ocean" and gets to spend time with her mom. While exploring the shore, watching whales from the boat dipping into the salty water, Ally finds out something important: her mother loves to swim as much as she does.

This is a very personal story. Ally is based on the author’s niece, Jeanie, and Ally's mother is based on the author's sister, Sarah, who went missing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 1998. Jeanie is like a seal in the water, and Sarah was just the same, but they never got to swim together. In this story, they do. Swimming with Seals is a story that was written for the thousands of children who long to live with their birth parents and will never fully understand why they can't.

About the authors

MAGGIE DEVRIES’s latest novel, Hunger Journeys, won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize and was called “historical fiction at its best” by CM Magazine. She has written eight other works for young readers, as well as one book for adults, Missing Sarah. A former children’s book editor and writer-in-residence for the Vancouver Public Library, she now focuses on teaching creative writing at the University of British Columbia and on her own writing.


Maggie de Vries' profile page

Janice Kun is an illustrator whose work is a distinctive multimedia blend of drawing, collage, digital and photographic elements. Her organic constructions reflect the dynamic energy of nature, combined with the lyricism of music and found street art. Janice's approach has created lush and tactile illustrations for magazine editorials, postage stamps, book covers and advertising campaigns. Janice is based in Toronto, Ontario, with roots in the Maritime provinces and southeast China. When not in her studio, she can be found hiking through the woods, hanging out by a lake, or roaming through the city with her camera.


Janice Kun's profile page

Heather Gould is an entrepreneur, artist and voice actor from Victoria, British Columbia.


Heather Gould's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The words and multimedia pictures excel at honoring the special time mother and daughter share…A needed…addition to diverse family stories, best for children whose caregivers are ready for questions."

Kirkus Reviews

"Importantly, this book celebrates a loving intergenerational family and conveys that all families are different. It tenderly depicts Ally's yearning to know her birth mother, mirroring the experience of many adopted children…The dynamic mixed media illustrations that blend pencil, watercolours and photography, capture the rugged beauty of the West Coast…The scenes are a feast for the eyes. Swimming with Seals is a worthy addition to any library collection wishing to include books about family diversity."

Resource Links

&quotThe simplicity of the story and the warmth of the multimedia artwork by illustrator Janice Kun would provide a special reading experience to share between a child and a caring adult. Swimming with Seals would also be a useful springboard for discussing types of families with older children and a good lead-up to motivate personal story writing.&quot

CM Magazine

"The beautiful and carefully chosen words, along with the gorgeous pictures, evoke a poignancy as deep as the sea."

Kit Pearson, award-winning author of <i>A Day of Signs and Wonders</i>

"The lovely artwork, done using pencil, watercolors, and photographic elements combined in Photoshop, perfectly complement this unique story… A teacher or parent might use this story as a starting point in discussing how different families can be."

Youth Services Book Review

"I really like this book because it's about a girl who loves to swim, just like me."

Lily, age 9, Canadian Teacher

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