Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Seed is Sleepy

by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long. Chronicle books, 2007. Review copy.

Aston and Long have done it again. Their 2006 book An Egg is Quiet won a Cybils award in February and they have teamed up again this year to put out another stunning non fiction book, this time on seeds. I served on the committee that chose Egg from among the best of last years’ non fiction picture books and we had very little debate about the outstanding excellence of that beautiful volume. I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review A Seed for chronicle books.

Aston and Long have put together the perfect balance of poetic wonder, interesting facts and practical information on seeds in all their variety. Each page includes a general statement on the nature of seeds, such as “a seed is secretive… fruitful… naked… adventurous… inventive…" The text for these intriguing lead-ins is in large handwriting script, making it appear as if you are reading a naturalist’s field journal full of observations. In smaller print the technical details are elaborated upon, such as this on the page illustrated by giant coast redwoods:
“Scientists call gymnosperms – seed that aren’t clothed in fruits – naked seeds. Most naked seed hide themselves on the scales of cones until they’re ready to make a dash for the ground.”
In mid-sized print more poetic descriptions are found on some pages, including this one illustrated by the stages of germination for beans and corn:
“Once a seed has shed its coat, it drinks in the rain, the dew, and yesterday’s icicles. It feasts on minerals in the soil. It knows to seek the sunlight… to push itself up, up, up through the soil. But it must wait awhile before that happens.”
Every aspect of a seed’s life and make-up is covered, from the range of sizes, shapes, dormancy periods, methods of dispersal, and carefully illustrated germination development into a baby plant.

The illustrations are works of art. They are so carefully in tune with the thoughtful text each page is a dance and a song of delight. Children who are alert and hungry for accurate scientific information about the world on their level will eagerly absorb this book. Whether you have an artist, a scientist, an engineer or a poet this book will intrigue and satisfy. With the snow melt running and warm breezes calling all seeds to sprout around my neighborhood this is the perfect time of year to cuddle up with a child and explore this lovely book. Then I think we should go plant some seeds and imagine them gracefully awaking under their warm soil covers to burst into the light right around Easter weekend… This is the book for Spring!

Edited to add: I just learned of this contest that Chronicle books is running. All you have to do is send them an email to put your name in a drawing to win autographed copies of both books An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy. Read more about the author and illustrator, download posters of both books and learn more about their process in creating these stunning books.

In our house we find books in our Easter baskets, and this year Buddy and Punkin are going to be so delighted with these gorgeous gems!

4 comments:

Kevin S said...

Thanks for information on their contest. I will be sure to send them an email to enter.

Sylvia Long said...

Wow! Thanks so much for the lovely, thoughtful review of Seed is Sleepy. Very encouraging!
My best wishes, Sylvia.

dianna aston said...

Thank you, Wrung Sponge. There is an ancient oak or an extinct date palm in every single seed. Dianna

Cloudscome said...

How sweet to have comments from both author and illustrator! I am so flattered. We really love these books.