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Review of Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

sidman_winter beesWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Rick Allen
Primary, Intermediate    Houghton    32 pp.
11/14    978-0-547-90650-8    $17.99

In winter, bees (“we are nothing on our own”) keep their precious queen warm by massing together into a “sizzling ball.” Hibernating garter snakes, safe in a cave, “’round each other twist and fold / to weave a heavy cloak of cold.” Intrepid moose “shrug off the cold,” while beavers retreat to their “dim oval room” to “groom, snack, kiss” between dives “in the under-ice world.” Framing her twelve-poem cycle with the fall departure of tundra swans and a “Triolet for Skunk Cabbage,” that harbinger of spring, Sidman exemplifies the survival strategies of a well-chosen sample of species. Her poems, as usual, are lovely — precise, evocative, lyrical, varied in tone; relevant facts in succinct (separate) prose illuminate the imagery of each. (There’s a glossary, too, a score or so of terms from abdomen to vole and including pantoum.) Winter Bees is as beautiful visually as it is verbally. Winter’s deep browns, blues, and whites are warmed with glowing honey tones, while a fox, caught mid-pounce in glorious red and gold on the cover, lurks throughout. A note describes the artist’s “unlikely marriage” of hand-colored linoleum blocks with computer techniques: the engraver’s tool lends strength; a digital laid paper effect provides pleasing texture. There’s a pleasing subtext, too: these creatures can play vital roles for one another — the “Alarm-on-the-wind” raven alerts wolves to prey they’ll share; multitudinous springtails (“snow fleas”) sustain chickadees. A handsome, persuasive, and authentic ambassador for creatures in their natural state.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Joanna Rudge Long About Joanna Rudge Long

Joanna Rudge Long is former editor of Kirkus Reviews and a frequent lecturer on children’s books.



  1. I absolutely ADORE this book and am thrilled that, at seven, my son finally has both the attention span to sit through a book of poetry and the mental acuity to connect such delicious imagery to reality. I have long loved Joyce Sidman’s books but this one tops everything: I cannot think of a book that more beautifully captures the rawness of winter with the beauty of survival!

  2. Yes, finally, a book worthy of Medals! The natural world in all of its neutrality, versus this goddamned black-white crap.

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