illustrated by Peter Sis
Published by Knopf
48 pages, 2003
Child of the Senses
Reviewed by Monica Stark
Poet and bestselling author Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses, Deep Play and Cultivating Delight, is known for her sensuous, lyrical writing. In many ways, Ackerman has written most eloquently about the things that set adults apart from children and, more importantly, how adults can regain something that the years might have stolen.
In Deep Play, for example, Ackerman mused about how adults can recapture some of the everyday playfulness they had as children. In A Natural History of the Senses Ackerman wrote with a naturalist's verve and a poet's skill about the five senses. Here again helping adults recapture and appreciate something that children take for granted.
Ackerman's latest book, Animal Sense, is a very different sort of beast for this author even while it explores some familiar territory. Aimed at children aged eight to 12, Animal Sense relates the five senses to the animal kingdom in a style that is subtle, lyrical and humorous, all at once. On hearing, Ackerman writes:
Baby birds aren't born knowing their song.
Thinking about taste, and with the barely-varied diet of a cow in mind, Ackerman writes:
Maybe she can taste every vitamin
Award-winning children's book author and illustrator Peter Sis' careful pointillist drawings supply a great deal of the charm in Animal Sense and provide a gentle counterpoint to Ackerman's prose. Not the garish post-modern children's book illustrations commonly found in current illustrated books aimed at this age group, Sis' illustrations give young readers a restful eyeful to contemplate while digesting Ackerman's thoughts.
Bees hate the movies
In Animal Sense Ackerman and Sis have created a fitting junior companion to Ackerman's work for adults. A gentle contemplation of the larger world, viewed through eyes trained, geared and primed to see it. | May 2003
Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.