Joyce Sidman’s new book Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature was just released yesterday, but—thanks to Vicki Palmquist of Winding Oak—I was lucky enough to score an ARC.
As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big (okay, huge) fan of Joyce Sidman’s work. I love Song of the Waterboatman and Dark Emperor, so I was really looking forward to this book.
But I was surprised the moment I saw the book—it’s square. Sidman's other natural history books have taller, more rectangular trim sizes. And I was a little bit disappointed when I first opened the book. No wonderful, rich sidebars full of great information. In fact, the book had very little text at all. Just 177 words. Yup, I counted.
Sure, what was there was signature Sidman—just beautiful. But shouldn’t there be more? This just wasn’t what I expected.
But because I trust Sidman, and because I know myself, I put the book away to give myself time. I had to wipe all my preconceived ideas about what the book would, could, should be out of my mind. I had to come back to the book with fresh eyes and an open mind.
So a few days later, at a quiet moment on my favorite couch in the sun room, I opened the book again. And I delved in. I looked at what the book is--not what it isn't.
What is it? Delightful. Gorgeous. A powerful celebration of spirals and spiraling in nature. The lovely language is perfectly in synch with Beth Krommes amazing woodcuts. In fact, a close examination shows that even the text has its own spiraling structure, slowly unfurling and wrapping iself up tight again. Amazing!
And this time, I found a treat at the end of the book—backmatter. It wasn’t as extensive as the Sidman sidebars I’m used to. But it did extend the book and would help young readers make connections.
Later, I discovered that Sidman and Krommes worked on this book together from the start. And that might be why the text seems very much like a tribute to the art. So it’s a different kind of book, but it’s still absolutely wonderful.