Butterfly Eyes Grasshopper

from Butterfly Eyes

Reviews for Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Starred review: The Horn Book magazine, Sept./Oct. 2006
The author of Song of the Water Boatman (rev. 5/05) takes a similar approach to a wild meadow. Eight pairs of "poetry riddles" present such related elements as the spittlebug ("Beautiful bubbles/bubbles of spume / guard me and hide me / in my bubble-room...What am I?") and the xylem sap it sucks from its host plant. A spread giving answers to the riddles and adding specific details about, say, "dew and grasshopper" or "goldfinch and hawk" follows each pair of poems. Sidman goes beyond diurnal and seasonal changes to explain such concepts as succession defined in a glossary as "naturally occurring changes... in a community of plants and animals." Featured species include a range of land vertebrates plus many other organisms. The verse is vivid, melodious, rich in variety. Cadence evokes creature: a fox that "trots / through / meadow-gold grass / in dawn sun"; the hawk's wings with "their span that gathers wind / effortlessly, and of course their / deadly, folding dive." A pantoum's repetitions predict the forest's eventual reclamation of the meadow; a concrete poem about a toad ("sticky tongue"; "paleslimybellyblownuplikeballoon") is especially felicitous. The poem referred to in the title neatly conveys the intriguing fact that butterflies "see more than we see" (their "favorite extra-special secret color" is ultraviolet). Krommes's scratchboard illustrations are splendid -- though stylized and decorative, they reflect such precise observation that each species is easily recognizable. An elegantly conceived, beautifully integrated volume.
Starred review: Kirkus, Aug. 3, 2006
Combining striking illustrations, evocative poems that do double duty as riddles and lucid prose commentary, this venture into the natural world stands out for both its beauty and its unusual approach. Young naturalists will find plenty to pore over in Krommes's ground-level scenes, rendered in strong-lined color scratchboard and featuring accurately observed wildflowers, insects and other life against stylized backdrops. In paired poems, Sidman finds subtle relationships in each setting: between morning dew and warm sun; fox and rabbits; deer and patient trees; the internal plumbing of a plant and the spittlebug that taps it to create a protective barricade. "Beautiful bubbles,/bubbles of pearl,/all in a clustery, bubbly swirl/Bubbles I blow/from my own bubble-spout/(I'll never/I'll never/I'll never come out!)." Except for a visual clue, the subjects of each poem-pair are left for readers to guess at, until a page turn reveals concise, specific explanations and details. A top-drawer blend of art and science.

Starred review: School Library Journal, Oct. 2006
As in Song of the Water Boatman (Houghton, 2005), Sidman applies her flair with poetry to explore the interactions of creatures and plants in a particular environment. Here, she employs varied poetic forms with simple explanations for a pleasing introduction to meadow ecology. The poems are posed as riddles in facing pairs: "We are the ghosts/of those/who have come before/The gray ones/Leaping/Gone/ What are we?" The spread following each set answers the questions and describes briefly an aspect of each animal's physiology or behavior. Visual clues complement the poetic suggestions in striking scratchboard scenes that are saturated with color. The busy, patterned views provide readers with much to see in this meadow, including magnified views of the insect denizens. They also incorporate ample white space for the text, nicely highlighting the visual qualities of much of the poetry. Sidman concludes with a brief explanation of how meadows change over time and eventually become forests through the process of succession This term is defined again in the glossary, which also includes one poetry form, the pantoum. This book is a handsome and versatile compendium, melding art, poetry, and natural history.
Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston