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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Swirl by Swirl, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen & Son. 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"A spiral is a growing shape.
It starts small
and gets bigger,

swirl by swirl."

Joyce Sidman is adept at invitations. Her beautiful poetry continually invites her readers to take a deep breath and look closely at the wonders of the natural world. Here, she does it all over again. In sharing this wondrous book adults are also allowed the time to sit and savor.

If you can't get out in that world right now (we are in the midst of a small winter storm) and take a personal look at it, come along with Joyce and Beth Krommes to wander in wonder at the spirals and swirls that are to be found everywhere.   As you turn each creatively brilliant page, you will see animals coiled in sleep, shells and ferns that furl and unfurl to show us their shape with pride, and weather phenomena that stun our senses.

The poetic verse is strong and the choices made for its descriptive language are clear and memorable.
The author crafts each sentence with skill and careful thought. The woodcut artwork fills the page with the tiniest details in light-infused tones of green, gold, orange and red. They swirl and wind across each page reminding us of the beauty to be seen in everyday life.

They begin in a small space...a chipmunk's nest. Then, the words move outward to grow and expand, to gain strength and reach beyond the forest floor to the ocean and prairie and finally into the universe where we can see starry shapes 'spinning and sparkling'. By the end the spiral has returned to its tiny, curled-up self, snuggling safe and warm.

It is a lovely tribute to the beauty we so often miss as we move through life too quickly, not stopping to appreciate what is right there for us to experience. In the final double page spread a spiral is defined and clarificaation is given to the swirlds shown in the pages of the book. For example:

"A clever. Butterflies need a long, flexible proboscis (like a sucking tongue) to reach deep into flowers and sip nectar. When the 'tongue' is not in use, the butterfly cleverly rolls it up into a tight spiral bundle beneath its head."  Brilliant!

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