Monday, October 29, 2012

7. Nightsong

By Ari Berk
Pictures by Loren Long
$17.99, ages 4 and up, 48 pages

A baby bat braves the deep, dark night by singing out to the world and listening to the world echo back, in this poetic picture book.

As Chiro sends out streams of sounds from his mouth, the branches of trees that he cannot see call back to him.

Then electrical lines echo back and soon all the tiny, flying tasty things he wants to eat call too.

But when Chiro wanders beyond the places he knows, will he still be able to hear the song of his home and find his way back to Mother?

Author Ari Berk turns a lesson in echolocation into a lyrical adventure, as a bat ventures off for the first time and learns to us his "good sense," his ability to see with sound and navigate with his ears.

"Sense," his mother explains, "is the song you sing out into the world and the song the world sings back to you."

Berk's writing is soothing and sweet. It not only takes the complexity out of technical term, but vividly conveys what it would be like to fly through the dark with very poor eyesight.

Night to Chiro is "darker than a moth's eyes" and "darker even than the water before dawn." The images transfix the eyes and their darkness is almost unfathomable.

Then illustrator Loren Long makes Chiro's fear of the dark feel like readers' fear as well.

As Chiro ventures out of the security of his cave, he's keenly aware that he's alone in darkness. His trembling body appears against a two-page spread that black with faint twig-like striations down the page. Then, phantom-like silhouettes appear as he goes into the forest.

Among them, blackened trees curling up like witches' hands.

As Chiro calls out and sound waves bounce off things in front of him, a spotlight of visibility radiates out from him. It's as if the sound he emits is clearing out a space in the night for day to come in.

Both eerie and comforting, this lush book not only demystifies a complicated process in science, but helps boost a child's confidence in facing the dark at bedtime.

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