Friday, October 10, 2008

Night Flyers: Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies

Gliding and fluttering back and forth, she shouts her torch of sound among the trees, listening for her supper. All is still.

Sometimes poetic, always informative, author Nicola Davies' Bat Loves the Night with Audio: Read, Listen, & Wonder describes the captivating nighttime world of the pipistrelle bat, a thumb-sized insect-eating mammal, as she leaves her attic roost in an old farmhouse for her nightly forage and returns as dawn begins to light the sky to feed her waiting baby.

Object of fear, symbol of darkness, largely unseen, and yet our only mammalian cousin capable of soaring and dazzling flight, the bat is a marvelous animal whose ways are fascinating to study. Davies describes the physiology of this little bat, her leathery wings supported by her long bony fingers, her "coat-hanger" toes which enable her kind of roost hanging from rafters, rocks, and branches, and her amazing ears which guide her surely and swiftly by echolocation through forests and urban settings to capture even the smallest of insects--mosquitoes, gnats, and tiny fruit flies--by the thousands for her nightly feast.

Nicola Davies' language is both exact and lyrically descriptive. Here she records the capture of one of the mother bat's evening snacks:

Then a fat moth takes flight below her.

Bat plunges, fast as a blink, and grabs it in her open mouth. But the moth's silvery scales are moon-dust slippery. It slithers from between her teeth.

Bat dives, nets it with a wing tip, scoops it to her mouth. This time she bites hard. Its wings fall away, like the wrapper from a candy bar.

The author weaves a world of information about this and other species of bats into a story-like narrative of one night's flight in marvelous word pictures, the bat zipping "over bushes, under trees, between fence posts, through the tangled hedge" swooping untouched as "she beams her voice around her like a flashlight and her echoes come singing back."

At last the little bat makes her way into her roost, calling out to locate her little pup huddled with the rest of the nursery group for warmth, and enfolds the tiny batling in her leathery wings to suckle her and sleep until the dark returns.

Outside the birds are singing. The flowers turn their faces to the sun.

But inside the rough hole the darkness stays. Bat dozes with her batling, waiting.

When the tide of night rises again, Bat will wake and plunge into the darkness, shouting. Bat loves the night.

Wondrously paired with Sarah Fox Davies' beautiful, blue-tinged paintings, this little picture book is a feast for the eyes as well as for the mind, a great introduction to the study of the bat. Included is a CD which, according to the cover blurb, offers "an engaging read-aloud with sound effects, a segment focusing on fascinating facts, [and] a read-along opportunity guided by prompts.

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