Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Interest Level: Ages 3 - 7
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Publisher: 2011, HMH Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Lexile AD510
Summary: An exploration of spirals occurring in nature, from living things to vast galaxies. Lyrical prose and bold artwork are perfect for sharing with even the youngest explorers. Endnotes give additional information about the science and mathematics of spirals. The author and illustrator have both been recognized with Caldecott medals for related works.
I can't quite remember how I discovered this book, but my personal copy is a worn staple-bound paperback created by Scholastic years ago, probably picked up through a Reading Club flier brought home by one of my children. I was pleased to discover that this title is still available in its original hardcover and now in board book format.
Swirl by Swirl is amazing. The text is written by nature poet Joyce Sidman, a woman with an amazing repertoire. This is not a rhythmic rhyming book, but the sparse text is loaded with imagery and it rolls off the tongue with power and elegance. Adults reading this book aloud to a child will find that it helps them slow down and find calm. Children will feel comfort in the sound of the language.
Beth Krommes artwork is quite simply incredible. Working on scratchboard with neat and meticulous cross-hatch texturing and shading, she has created an intricate wonderland that is detailed yet somehow not overwhelming for young eyes. Having tried my hand at both pen and ink and scratchboard, I am in awe at the amount of work and precision represented in her works. She adds a dash of whimsy to otherwise naturalistic renderings. I am especially enamored with the symbols she incorporates into the starry night scene. They make me think of art from many cultures, in turn reminding me of the wonder that all humans feel when experiencing the wonder of nature.
This book, especially in its newer board book format, is a beautiful gift for any baby or toddler. Large text makes it approachable to children learning to read, but adult direction is needed, especially with the endnotes. Preschool and day care classrooms should not be without this gem, nor should elementary schools and art teachers. You may recognize Krommes' artwork from Caldecott winner The House in the Night. For those wishing to explore nature and poetry further, especially with older children, I also recommend The Barefoot Book of Earth Poems.
This book is available at Bookshop.org