Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, October 14, 2011

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Joyce Sidman; Pictures by Beth Krommes
Houghton Mifflin, 2011
ISBN: 9780547315836
This reviewer checked out the book from the public library.

Newbery Honor winner, Joyce Sidman is a demanding poet. Over and over again, she has asked her readers to slow down and observe the natural world around them. And, oh, my,  Joyce shows us just how many wonders are out there waiting for children -- and adults -- to discover. 

For my children and me, Sidman's books bring back happy memories. With Song of the Water Boatman and other Pond Poems we talked about the hours spent watching the goings on at a marshy pond that was just down the road from our house when we lived on a Maine island. Every day throughout the year we would visit the pond to track the changes. Tadpoles turning into frogs that became a tasty lunch for the Great Blue Heron. 

While reading Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night we were reminded of the time, very late one night, when we were awoken to the sound of four Great Horned Owls. They were in the trees that surrounded our house; one Owl in each of the four directions. For a time we could hear nothing but their hoots. Seeing Rick Allen's illustrations had us speculating again what it was those owls were hunting.  A mouse? 

Now, in Swirl by Swirl, Sidman asks us to look hard to find swirls. The poetry is simple, making a book to share with a younger audience. Especially, those children just learning about the wonders of outdoors.

The book begins in winter with hues of gray and purple. Beth Krommes (2009 Caldecott winner) gives us a cut-away view of a harvest mouse, a bull snake, a woodchuck, and an eastern chipmunk all curled up safely sleeping underground.

"A spiral is a snuggling shape. It fits in small places. Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits...

Turn the page and with an explosion of color we see the same animals awakening in spring.

"...for a chance to expand." 

Spirals are not only shapes of animals, spirals show growth as a fern unfurls. Spirals in the shape of a Ram's horn to defend, and a common octopus uses its spirals -- found at the end of its tentacles -- to reach out,

"exploring the world." 

Krommes illustrations are done on scratchboard. They bring Sidman's words to life. My favorite is the picture of the tornado as,
"It twists through air with clouds on its tail." 

As in her other books, Sidman includes a scienitific explanation for each entry. Here, those informative paragraphs are in the back of the book. 

Well done, Sidman and Krommes (Butterfly Eyes and other Secrets of the Meadow) for crafting another exquisite book to savor. 

6 Stars
All ages.

To see those luscious illustrations and see the book, watch the book trailer. 

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