Caterpillars Can't Swim

Caterpillars Can't Swim


By Liane Shaw


Two boys look to the water for escape, but for very different reasons.

For sixteen-year-old Ryan, the water is where he feels the most confident. Ever since childhood, when he realized that he would never walk like other people, he has loved the water where gravity is no longer his enemy. But he never imagined he would become his small town’s hero by saving a schoolmate from drowning.

Jack is also attracted to the water, but for him it’s the promise of permanent escape. Disappearing altogether seems better than living through one more day of high-school where he is dogged by rumors about his sexuality. He’s terrified that coming out will alienate him from everyone in town—and crush his adoring mother.

Ryan saves Jack’s life, but he also keeps his secret. Their bond leads to a grudging friendship, and an unexpected road-trip to Comic Con with Ryan’s best friend Cody, the captain of the swim team. They make an unlikely trio, but each of them will have the chance to show whether he is brave enough to go against the stereotypes the world wants to define him by.

Read more about the characters in Caterpillars Can’t Swim in Liane Shaw’s The Stone Rainbow

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About the Author

Liane Shaw is the author of several books for teens, including, Fostergirls, The Color of Silence, and Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell. Liane was an educator for more than 20 years. Now retired from teaching, Liane lives with her family in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario.

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Awards and Citations

  • 2019 Rainbow Book List from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) of the American Library Association (ALA)

  • 2019 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities – IBBY Canada

  • 2018 (Spring) - Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens - Starred Selection

Product Information

  • CAN Release: September 12, 2017

  • US Release: March 6, 2018

  • $13.95 Paperback

  • 256 Pages

  • 5.5 x 8.25

  • Teen Fiction

  • Ages 13-18 / Grades 8-12

  • ISBN: 9781772600537


  • Character Education
    > Bullying
    > Friendship & Family
    > Prejudice & Tolerance

  • Reflecting Diversity
    > Abilities
    > LGBTQ

Praise for Caterpillars Can't Swim

"In Caterpillars Can’t Swim, [Liane Shaw] examines the prejudices people exert on those who are different – whether those differences are perceived or real – and crafts a plot that ensures understanding and acceptance.... By casting Ryan, whose cerebral palsy defines him for so many, in the role of hero, Shaw changes up the expected narrative." - Quill & Quire

"This is a strong addition to the canon of literature in Canada that works within realms of sexual diversity and disability. A thought-provoking and compelling narrative that teenage fans of character-driven books will definitely enjoy. Recommended." - CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"Shaw has written a compassionate, well-crafted story about two boys dealing bravely with challenges and finding support in friendship." - Booklist

"A coming-of-age story that encourages celebrating one's differences ... Caterpillars Can’t Swim is an encouraging story about what’s possible if teens choose to accept the people around them." - Foreword Reviews

"Set in a small town, the story zeroes-in on the difficulty of fostering self-worth in a hostile environment." - Winnipeg Free Press

This book will be a great addition to any YA fan’s bookcase, as well as any high school library. Let’s get the conversation going. Never let anyone suffer in silence.” - Openly Bookish