It's my tradition (and pleasure) to peruse my local indie bookstore for books as one of the presents for each of my grandchildren at Christmas time. Their insistence upon growing up makes the choices more difficult with each passing year, but luckily I still have some younger ones for whom I can purchase a beautifully illustrated picture book. The manager, Lois, always has a fabulous find for me and this year was no exception.
One of her recommendations was Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen, published by HMH Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014). This duo teamed up to produce the 2011 Newbery Honor Award winner, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, combining scientific facts about night creatures with stunning illustrations and hauntingly lyrical verse. I was happy to see their new 2014 release continued this theme with the same quality of line and art.
Being a beekeeper's helpmate, the first poem I turned to was "Winter Bees".
We are an ancient tribe,
a hardy scrum.*
Sidman's words catch the hum and feel of the hive deep in its tree trunk home, keeping the heat on by the act of "shivering" - which keeps it a balmy 92 degrees, by the way. Her vocabulary is picturesque but not difficult for the age group - don't you love the word, "scrum"?
However, my favorite poem was "Brother Raven, Sister Wolf". Having been a wolf watcher for many years, this poem took my heart. She portrayed the relationship of bird and canine as I have often imagined it to be. Although not exactly friends, they have been observed to be of great use to one another in finding and providing something to eat - though they often squabble in the process.
Silver winged thief,
Yellow eyed snarler,
Other subjects in the book are voles, chickadees, and even a triolet on the lowly skunk cabbage, a plant I eagerly look for in late winter. I highly recommend this lovely, lovely picture book not only for the young ones in your life, but for you and anyone who loves nature, poetry and the treasures of the winter season. Ms. Sidman also hints of the promise of spring, for as she says in "Chickadee's Song",
winter doesn't last forever.
Hopefully, the team of Sidman and Allen (his linoleum block prints are truly amazing) will continue to give us more enjoyable collaborations. Bravo!
*Book cover and quotations from poems with permission of Ms. Sidman.