Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rock On...

I was one of those lucky kids whose parents loved taking them everywhere, especially outdoors.  Long walks in the woods and along sandy beaches provided endless opportunities for collections of all things nature related; pressed wildflowers and leaves, terrarium creations, and rocks in all shapes, sizes and colors.  The hours hunting for Petoskey stones, if tallied, would be mind-boggling.

The team, who six years ago brought us, An Egg Is Quiet, followed by first A Seed Is Sleepy then A Butterfly Is Patient, has come together again in a title named A Rock Is Lively (Chronicle Books, August 2012). Author Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrator Sylvia Long continue in the same style as the previous books, much like a naturalist's journal.  Aston writes a nearly lyrical series of sentences suggesting then supporting what rocks are.  Vibrant watercolor pictures by Long not only accompany her text but visually inform.

Beginning beneath the surface of the earth, when rocks are still liquid (the melting temperature for rocks is a staggering 1,300 to  2,400 degrees Fahrenheit), we learn of the melding of various minerals to compose rocks.  Zooming through space the distinction between meteoroids, comets and asteroids is explained.  Who knew meteoroids, meteors and meteorites can be the same rock but in different locations?

We journey to Algeria, Canada, Australia, Scotland and the United States to view some of the oldest rocks on the planet.  Peeking inside the animal kingdom the use of rocks for food consumption is as varied as the specie.  It's a marvel to see how humans have molded, chipped, pounded and powdered them into weapons, tools, architectural wonders and creative expression.  Coming full circle readers are given an understandable account of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks before a pictorial liveliness, the rock cycle, explodes into view.

After each A rock is statement Aston provides factual follow-ups.  She varies her presentation manner; a series of facts, allusion to a recipe for the mixing of minerals, comparisons, and examples.  It's obvious she knows her intended audience telling them exactly what they need to know to gain a greater understanding of rocks's place and purpose in our natural world; not too much but just enough.

Upon opening the cover readers are greeted with a brilliant closeup of lapis lazuli spread across the endpapers.  A turn of page reveals a vibrant, colorful array of more than fifty rocks spread across two more pages on a stark white background.  Lapis lazuli, again zooming in, introduces the first title page featuring several azurite geodes,  closed and open.

Long's watercolors in a word are dazzling.  Altering placement, size, perspective and background colors we go around the world and into the world of rocks.  Many of her layouts are like looking at carefully composed still lifes.  Depending on the text she might illustrate the particular rock topic as part of a scientific display, drawings in a book or photographic snapshots.

Every reader will take something away from the reading of A Rock Is Lively written by Dianna Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long regardless of their prior knowledge.  The text and pictures combine to present an overview with the perfect amount of added specifics.  I would not hesitate to recommend this wholeheartedly.  Please visit the publisher's website for a teacher's guide.

Online resources which could be used in conjunction with this are:


  1. I love this series! Can't wait to see this one :).

  2. It made me want to start collecting rocks all over again.