Saturday, March 17

A Seed Is Sleepy

by Dianna Hutts Aston
illustrated by Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books 2007

Thankfully, this sequel to An Egg Is Quiet is better than its predecessor.

I know An Egg Is Quiet is a lovely book, a wonderful meditation on the vast variety of ova, factually presented in delicate watercolors. I know because over and over people kept telling me what a wonderful book it was, adults buying it with the rapturous joy of anticipation, excited to share its bountiful nature upon all those lucky children who would receive it.

I saw a lot of grandmothers buy An Egg Is Quiet and not one kid ever picked it up.

No, there's actually nothing wrong with An Egg I Quiet, it didn't float my boat is all. I can appreciate the chef's magnificent presentation of piastra dei testicoli but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to eat it.

Sequels -- in the arts, books, movies and music in particular -- suffer either the fate of "the sophomore slump" where expectations are high but the offering is lacking, or they can offer a renewed hope where the original offered only promise. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, to use a random non-book example.

A Seed Is Sleepy takes us through a garden of seed varieties, showcasing their rainbow of colors and range of sizes, with a smattering of seed trivia to keep things lively. It must be the variety that won me over -- eggs can be so similarly egg-shaped, their markings pastel dull. But here we have red seeds and yellow seeds, seeds thousands of years old from an extinct plant that were discovered and germinated, gigantic seeds that weight more than a house pet and look like large tumors. Look at 'em all! These are some seeds!

Seriously, both of Aston and Long's creations celebrate the aspects of natural birth in ways that are poetic and unique. The watercolors in both speak to a naturalist's love of it's subject and the simplicity in these books yields a wealth of information presented in an uncomplicated fashion. It never feels like they are teaching, never feels scientific, and to that end both books are a triumph.

Having grown up with the Coastal Redwoods of California I'm sure I knew at some point that their seeds were gymnosperms -- or "naked seeds" -- but I don't think I realized that less than 10% of all Redwoods come from seed; the rest, the book informs us, come from other Redwoods, though it doesn't explain how. That's a small peeve of mine, that one example, because it neither explains why the tree produces so many seeds it doesn't need or how it reproduces otherwise. Also, I would have liked a bit of explanation about the types and varieties of seeds that use fires to kick-start their germination. Again, a small thing, but the kind of thing I think I would have dug when I was small.

Eggs, seeds... could fungus be next in this series?
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