Thursday, March 23, 2017

All Around Us! Round by Joyce Sidman



A young girl and her dad are out for a spring walk, surrounded by the sinuous shape of the round and spherical things all around them.

Some seeds are tiny globes of grow power, as are the eggs she spots a turtle laying in the soft soil, her shell also marked by circular spirals. The fungus and the flowers in the field both morph into the roundness of mushrooms and blueberries on the bush and then go into the child's round gathering basket.

Sunflowers stretch toward the sun, and round raindrops fall downward, to form widening circles in the water of the pond. The moon grows toward full roundness and the sun and stars are rounded spheres eternally circling in the skies, while the bubbles the girl blows in the air are transparent and transient spheres.

What goes around comes around, and in her latest, Round (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) author Joyce Sidman celebrates the shape of round things--from the ubiquitous sun to the concentric growth circles hidden inside the tree and the evanescence of soap bubbles. Roundness is everywhere, an efficient shape that can roll gently or roughly through the world, a self-reinforcing shape that is super strong and satisfying to the eye.

From the circle of life in nature, from seeds and eggs to the seasons, Sidman at last comes around to the human circle, as the little girl and friends form a circle in the grass, holding hands "with no one left out," and with a big hug from dad's circling arms.

Even without rhymes, the Newbery-winning Joyce Sidman's narration is poetic, in her short lines and in her word choices that suggest more than they say: her heavenly bodies "spin together slowly..." and her blueberries "swell into roundness" with subtlety and sibilance, and artist Taeenun Yoo portrays the youthful roundness of a little girl as she moves through her world. Yoo's illustrations subtly move through the circle of the seasons, beginning with spring seeds, through the fullness of summer, and toward the ending of the year, cycling through autumn colors in the fields to the warmth of the wintry comforter inside which the girl curls into a warm ball with books and cozy cup of chocolate.

This is a outstanding "concept" book that focuses on the ubiquitous shape of the circle and sphere, not in the concrete way of isolated geometrical shapes, but in a lovely look at how the concept of roundness is built into everything around us. Lovely language is perfectly paired with Yoo's soft full-bleed illustrations. Sidman also appends an appealing little author's note, "Why are there so many things in nature that are round?" that makes perfect sense of things most of us never think about. This one is a certain first purchase for home or school libraries.

For another of Sidman's books on shapes in nature, see her Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, also by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, reviewed here.

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