cover image Caves


Nell Cross Beckerman, illus. by Kalen Chock. Orchard, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-338-72662-6

Homing in on seven caves with distinctive characteristics, Cross Beckerman (When the Sky Glows) injects genuine passion into this nonfiction examination of caves and caving. The draw of secret places deep in the earth, staccato opening lines acknowledge, is simultaneously frightening and irresistible: “Excitement and fear battle./ Which will win?” Beginning with a definition of the subject, formally descriptive text alternates with beckoning, onomatopoeic free verse to introduce various locales. Among these are the “scorching” crystal caverns of Naica, Mexico, filled with 39-foot natural crystals; a fossil-filled South African cave system whose passage was traversed by highly dexterous female spelunkers; and an underwater cave system in Florida that takes 29 hours to cross. In a striking picture book debut that also demystifies cave-dwelling wildlife, including bats and glowworms, animator Chock combines realistic-looking rock surfaces with softly shaded adult and child figures overwhelmed by the natural features. The book’s large trim size underscores the enormous voids of these interior spaces, while matte black pages convey their velvety darkness. Together, text and artwork deliver a high-impact introduction to the lure of caves. Back matter includes creators’ notes and “Cave Rules” that emphasize the crucial need for safety. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Lara Perkins, Andrea Brown Literary. (Oct.)