cover image Desert Song

Desert Song

Tony Johnston. Gibbs Smith Publishers, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-87156-491-7

""Day is done./ Twilight comes./ The sun goes down/ and streaks the clouds/ with flame."" Johnston (The Barn Owls) lyrically evokes the end of desert heat and the beginning of shadows at the close of day as Young's (Lon Po Po) opening spreads of a sky aflame in yellow hues give way to orange. By the first page of text, wine-colored clouds engulf two lonely cacti. As Johnston's poem picks up speed (""Suddenly/ with a rush of wings/ bats spill from a cave in a hill""), Young offers a view from within the bats' cave as they soar over a cactus-filled horizon. A life-size view of flowers and insects accompanies Johnston's litany of the exotic inhabitants (""weevils,/ beetles--/ seeking the saguaro's/ sweet fruit""). Like a refrain, the rhythmic text circles back to the bats. At the poem's conclusion, the winged nocturnal creatures cling to the cave's roof, and Young imagines their last breathtaking view of the desert at daybreak, as the sun paints the terrain in sherbet hues. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)