This book is a lovely picture book for a couple of reasons. Today I want to talk about the writing—the story and the language in the book.
Nancy Flood sets out in this book to show children that they share some things in common with nature in general and with sandstone in particular. She takes a circle of life approach to her subject. A mighty mountain starts with one grain of sand. That binds together with other grains until millions are bound together to form a mountain. And then wind and rain wears against the stone breaking it back to down to sand.
The author compares this process to the process of life and growth that humans beings enter into. We start out as a single cell, she tells us, then that cell multiplies. Over and over, the cells multiply, until there are millions bound together in each person. By implication we will be ground back down by the winds and the waters in our lives, too. Just like the sandstone. Flood didn’t go there—that would have been a bit much for a picture book. But I like that the bright child will no doubt make an unconscious connection with the death of the sandstone and the deaths of men.
I think taking this approach adds to the depth of the book. Different folks will interpret the message differently—some may bring a pantheistic view to the reading and see an interconnectedness to all of universe. Others, Christians like myself for instance, will inject into the work the understanding that humans are created, and so they share things with other parts of creation. Also I see that there is a rhythm to creation and a beauty that speaks to me of an orderly and beautiful Creator.
I like that the author was not dogmatic with her words and left the interpretation open. She stated what is true—sandstone has a life cycle, if you will, and so do humans—and left the application of that truth up to the reader.
But I like the way she wrote this book even more because I like the repeating theme she used. In one series of pages she starts with rain washing off the back of a mountain, and then moves to water trickles cutting into the mountain to make tiny cracks. After that she shows us bigger channels that have been cut and which allow narrow streams to flash through, and she finally gets to the Grand Canyon. So there is a method, a time-line, a traveling through the life of the sandstone that repeats itself through the book.
Those of you that know me, though, know I’m a word person. I love the sound of words and the rhythm as they drip across the page. Particularly in a picture book this is important, I think, when you have fewer words to play with. So here is one small bit from the book I loved:
Narrow streams flash through corkscrew corridors, slicing out twisty, twirly, skinny slot canyons.
Isn’t that a gorgeous bit of writing? Doesn’t that paint a wonderful, textured and active picture?
If you have children studying geology, or the life cycles found in nature, this would be a lovely book to read with them. It uses word poetry to match the poetry of creation.
Tomorrow I’ll talk a little about the photographs.
In the meantime, please feel free to visit others on the tour:
- SMS Book Reviews
Never Jam Today
Our Big Earth Media Co.
My Own Little Corner of the World
Cafe of Dreams
The Hungry Readers