cover image Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

Joyce Sidman, illus. by Beth Krommes. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-547-31583-6

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. (Oct.)