Squares, circles and triangles, sure. But who knew there were so many spirals around us? Just as she did in her recent Caldecott Honor title, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, and Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, Joyce Sidman challenges young readers to look at their environment with fresh eyes in Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.

Sidman’s lyrical text opens with an unexpected observation: “A spiral is a snuggling shape,” exemplified by slumbering animals coiled tight to stay warm through hibernation. It continues with a look at what a spiral is (e.g., a clever shape in a butterfly’s proboscis or a spider’s web); what a spiral does (e.g., a snail shell that protects its inhabitant); and the need for spirals (e.g., an Asian elephant that uses its spiraling trunk to grasp food).

It’s not only in plants and animals that spirals are found. A bold spiral curves to make a breaking ocean wave, while a twisting spiral forms a classic funnel tornado. Still another spiral stretches “starry arms through space” to form a galaxy. To truly understand the formation and function of these spirals, children need to see them in action. In her signature scratchboard illustrations, Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes does just that. From a fern’s curling leaves to a merino sheep’s horns to the tentacles of an octopus, the beautifully luminous illustrations depict both predictable and unusual examples of spirals.

For curious children (and adults), a concluding double-page spread offers more information on many spirals, as well as an explanation of Fibonacci numbers and the spirals they create. It may take several reads before children notice all of the swirling spirals, but each reading will be a stunning adventure to see how the world shapes up.

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