Monday, November 26, 2012

30 Days of Picture Books - Nightsong by Ari Berk

Down to our last week of Picture Book Month -- sob! We will miss sharing our daily picture book picks with you, dear reader, though I am looking forward to blogging about some chapter books and a few other choice bits we've run across in the past month. And don't forget to check out our Pinterest boards for even more title lists and other bookish fun!

So, our Day 26 pick is a tale of adventure. Picture books, as I've said before, allow readers to try on new personas. All books do this, really, and isn't that why reading is such wonderful fun? Through a book you can be anyone, go anywhere, try anything. For me, as a quite introverted kid, that was the pure magic of reading, and most likely why I love it so. And that's one of the best gifts we can give our kids, I think, the gift of possibility and imagination and worlds without limits.

Today's selection is Nightsong, written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long. You'll recognize Long as the author/illustrator of our Day 2 pick. Though this is just as much a spectacle visually speaking, it's got a very different tone than Otis. Here, Long makes use of a darker palette to bring to life Berk's tale of a young bat named Chiro, headed out for his very first solo expedition. Being a bat, Chiro is flying out into the darkness; when he expresses his reservations about this to his mother, she tells her child "There are other ways to see. . . other ways to help you make your way in the world."

Night is a character here, a force that imprints Chiro's experience indelibly. At first the little bat is frightened, but soon he realizes that his "good sense", as his mother calls it, can indeed help him to see in new ways. After eating his fill at the pond ("Eeeeewww, he eats bugs!" Sprout shudders gleefully at this bit), Chiro decides to venture a bit further. And here is where the nightsong changes, where Chiro hears and feels and senses in an entirely different fashion than he has known before.

Oh, this is a lovely book, and distinctly different from Stellaluna, Janell Cannon's classic work to which there will be inevitable comparisons. Berk's evocatively written narrative is so much about testing one's wings, about venturing out even as we keep the memory of what is safe nestled close to ourselves, that we might return to that safeness when adventure is done. The whole book is lush and beautiful, the kind of deeply extravagant piece that is an experience unto itself. Even as it casts its own glow, Nightsong reflects the best of children's literature with its enduring themes of exploration and discovery.

As Chiro's mother tells him, "Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you. Sing, and the world will answer. That is how you'll see." Whether you read this with your own kiddos, share with extended family or simply dip into it on your own, Nightsong is a treasure you won't want to miss.

Nightsong by Ari Berk, published by Simon & Schuster

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