Image for Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature Reviews
Reviews for Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Starred Review: Publishers Weekly, September 19, 2011
This is one of those rare children's books that make you look at the physical world differently. "A spiral is a clever shape. It is graceful and strong," writes Newbery Honor artist Sidman (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night), as she and Caldecott Medalist Krommes (The House in the Night) explore spirals found in nature. A spiral, Sidman decides, is nature's elegant solution in many respects: "It fits neatly in small places" (hence the sleeping position of burrow-dwelling animals), it offers protection and strength (the defensive curl of the porcupine), and it provides firm grasps (monkey's tail, elephant's trunk). But beyond these utilitarian advantages, spirals are beautiful—whether we see in them hints of infinity, the promise of unfolding potential, or the embodiment of mathematical perfection. This feast for thought is a visual banquet, as well: working in her signature scratchboard style and employing a gorgeous burnished palette, Krommes creates spiral-packed nature scenes that have a timeless, classic beauty. Whether she's portraying a tiny curled eastern chipmunk or a classic funnel tornado, it's clear that nature isn't the only master at work. Ages 4—8.
Starred review: Kirkus, September 15, 2011
"A spiral is a snuggling shape" is the somewhat homely observation that begins Sidman's brief and graceful poem—she goes on to catalog and celebrate the ways that spirals manifest themselves in the physical and natural world in a way that will draw in the youngest listeners. Krommes' dense and richly colored scratchboard illustrations, with their closely packed and neatly labeled creatures, plants and natural phenomena, create a feeling of abundance and profusion, with so many parts of the world nestled together in swirls and spirals—effectively demonstrating its fundamental nature. The author and illustrator examine spirals as coiled and protective (fiddlehead ferns, a curled hedgehog) as well as bold and releasing (curls on ocean waves, a spiral galaxy). They further offer observations on the ways that plants and animals use the spiral structure for strength or support (a monkey's tail clinging to a branch, a spider's web constructed between twigs). Two pages of notes at the end offer a definition ("Spiral: a shape that curls around a center point"), details that elaborate on the poem and explain some of the individual manifestations of spirals and a brief nod to the Fibonacci sequence. Exquisitely simple and memorable.
Starred review: School Library Journal, October 2011
PreS-Gr 3-Concentrating on a single shape, this title is aimed at a slightly younger audience than Sidman's previous explorations of nature. The text considers various aspects of the shape, from snuggling animals curled in underground burrows to expanding rings of stars in a spiral galaxy. The shapes uncoil to reveal leafy fern fronds or clasp tightly like a spider monkey's tail around a branch. The observations, from a few words to a couple sentences, are tucked neatly into Krommes's gorgeous scratchboard spreads. Rich, deep colors enhance panoramas of marine creatures moving through curling ocean waves or a close-up view of dew glinting on the web of an orb spider. Plants and animals are labeled in small type, and more information about many of them is provided in the endnotes. However, even without the added details, the book will encourage youngsters to look for spirals in their own surroundings. Another first-rate volume from the author and illustrator of Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (Houghton Harcourt, 2006).
Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Starred review: Booklist, September 1, 2011
Written by the author of the Newbery Honor Book Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (2010) and illustrated by the Caldecott Award winner of The House in the Night (2008), this unique picture book explores spirals in nature. Each new section of the precisely worded, free-verse text begins with the words "A spiral" and succinctly considers one facet of the shape as it is expressed in the natural world. "A spiral is a snuggling shape" begins the first section, illustrated with a cross-sectional view of a hillside with small animals curled up in their underground dens. Other sections present the spiral as "a strong shape," "a clever shape," and "a shape that reaches out." The open-ended quality of the verse and the visual nature of the subject create plenty of opportunities for the art. The striking scratchboard illustrations use black lines, shapes, and crosshatched shading on white backgrounds to create strong compositions, while watercolor washes add subtle warmth and brilliance. Even the endpapers teem with spiral forms, such as curling fern heads, coiled snakes, a swirling galaxy, and the curving grasp of an elephant's trunk. Two appended pages of notes expand on the book's ideas. There are, of course, many school uses for this, but just reading it aloud at home will make the everyday fascinating.
Starred review: Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2011
Newbery Honor-winning poet Sidman turns her craft to a nonfiction picture book text: "A spiral is a snuggling shape. It fits neatly in small places. Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits for a chance to expand." Caldecott medalist Krommes's scratchboard illustrations suffuse every spread with color, shape, and movement, vividly depicting spirals in nature "[unwrapping themselves], one soft curl at a time" in a stand of lady ferns, or being "bold" in breaking ocean waves. Each spread presents an entire landscape in varying palettes, with a treasure trove of details that will captivate the youngest readers for hours. The spirals described in the text are discretely called out in the illustrations with italic labels that curve along the outlines of the harvest mouse's tail, or the cross section of a nautilus shell. (On one spread only, the labels confuse: a labeled red fox is not a spiral.) Though one could read the story of spirals here solely through the pictures, Sidman's very simple text provides the perfect backdrop: powerful, poetic, good for reading aloud and reading again. The very few words per page hold their own visually, in a large font placed on the only white space provided. A single spread at the close gives more details about the role of spirals in the particular animals, plants, and elements described. From the endpapers that gather together all the spirals depicted to the spiraling text on the title page verso, this book is elegantly constructed, and as poetry, picture book, or nonfiction, a success in every way.