An Egg is Quiet, written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, is a non-fiction picture book about eggs of all different types of creatures. I realize that that description alone doesn't make it sound very exciting. But An Egg is Quiet is simply gorgeous. It's also filled with interesting facts, sure to engage budding naturalists. The combination of lovely ink and watercolor illustrations and clear, engaging text won this book the first ever Cybils award for non-fiction picture books last year.
This is a book that could keep elementary school kids entertained for days. The frontispiece, just before the title page, is a two-page spread with pictures of dozens of eggs, each to scale and labeled. A matching end page shows, in a different order, the creatures (birds, insects, fish, iguana, etc.) that the eggs come from, just begging kids to match them together.
Each spread throughout the book details another aspect of eggs. Their varied sizes and colors and types of decorations. Their different textures and means of camouflaging themselves. Their function, and how they protect and nurture. Specific examples of eggs abound, most shown actual size, unless otherwise indicated. The facts sprinkled through the book are kid-friendly, with occasional humor, always tied to concepts that kids can understand easily. For example, from the "an egg is clever" page:
"An egg might be speckled to resemble the rocks around it. Or it might be gray, the color of mud by a lake. An egg does not want to be eaten by a raccoon or a snake or a fox."
Or this, from the "an egg is shapely page":
"Seabird eggs are pointy at one end, so if they're laid on rock ledges, they roll around in safe little circles, not off the cliff."
The page ("an egg is giving") detailing how an egg shelters and feeds "the little creature growing inside it" is fascinating. The book concludes with the hatching of some black-necked stilt nestlings. Young readers are sure to be thrilled. The general tone of the book is matter-of-fact, not overly sentimental, but also filled with wonder.
An Egg is Quiet is certain to be a hit with kids already interested in natural science. You know who I mean - kids who catch tadpoles, and watch ants scurry along on the sidewalk. But the beauty of this book is that it's also likely to engage other kids - the ones who have to be dragged outside kicking and screaming. And it's beautiful, making it an excellent gift book. Buy it for every early elementary school kid you know, that's my advice. And be sure to pair it with the sequel, A Seed is Sleepy, which I'll also be reviewing. I think that the Cybils committee that picked this book made an excellent choice.
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: February 2006
Source of Book: Purchased it, after it won the 2006 Cybils award for non-fiction picture book.
Other Blog Reviews: Love2Learn Blog, Fuse #8, Planet Esme, Blogcritics Magazine (Gina Ruiz, also at AmoxCalli), About Children's Books. See also an interview with Sylvia Long, at the Cybils site.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.