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To Be Like the Sun


Within every tiny seed lies the secret of what's to come. First a shoot, then a stem, a leaf, a bud--and finally a brilliant sunflower reaching high for the sun. Join a young girl as she waters and watches, celebrating the everyday miracles of growth and life.
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Within every tiny seed lies the secret of what's to come. First a shoot, then a stem, a leaf, a bud--and finally a brilliant sunflower reaching high for the sun. Join a young girl as she waters and watches, celebrating the everyday miracles of growth and life.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Leslie Greaves Radloff
A little girl discovers the enormous possibilities of a sunflower seed when she opens a package of them to plant one spring day. Looking at the seeds, she considers the sunflower and all that must be done before the seed begins its own work of cracking the shell and reaching up to the sky. As the story unfolds we get a mini-class in horticulture: the seed makes roots and leaves, then a stem and more leaves, until a tightly closed bud finally appears, giving just a hint of the treasure inside. Finally, the sunflower blooms, taller now than the child who planted it, facing the sun. As summer migrates into fall and the sunflower becomes heavy, its head droops and seeds fall to the ground to be picked up for birdfeeders in the yard. Much later, as fall becomes winter, a picture of the sunflower hangs on the refrigerator as a reminder of the summer, while the girls sit in a cozy chair gazing at the sunflower seed in her hand. The story, which had its beginning in a poem published in the late 1990s in a slim volume of poetry (Getting Used to the Dark, DK Publishing, 1997) is similar to the authors' Letter to the Lake (DK Publishing, 1998.) In each is a child discusses the object and reflects on it as though the object were able to listen and respond. Using short sentences, a poet's sense of text and rhythm, and beautiful descriptive language, this is a delightful read-aloud for younger children. In the collage-like illustrations and those done in what looks like crayon, readers will be reminded of Eric Carle and Zoe Hall's work. Reviewer: Leslie Greaves Radloff
School Library Journal

K-Gr 3- A girl plants and nurtures a sunflower seed, enjoying each stage of its cycle from growth to bloom to seeding to remembrance. She addresses the sunflower directly: "Hello, little seed,/striped gray seed./Do you really know everything/about sunflowers?" Her one-sided conversation illuminates the everyday miracle packed inside the tiny seed (" do the real work/down in the dark") and evokes the lush garden setting ("The whole world wants to be golden/like you, sunflower,/to rest in the cool air/at sunset,/listening to cricket songs." The lyrical free verse is enhanced by Chodos-Irvine's colorful linocuts. The blocky yet realistic prints fit the mood perfectly and bring subtle layers of interpretation to the words, as when tiny sunlike fireflies are added to the dusk scene in which the flower is "thinking about the sun/even when it has gone away." Younger children will enjoy the concrete imagery while older readers will appreciate the effortlessly evoked themes of seasons, life cycle, and the miracles of nature. Portions of the text were previously published in the poetry collection Getting Used to the Dark (DK, 1997), but this picture-book presentation stands firmly on its own feet.-Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Kirkus Reviews
Addressing a sunflower seed, a small girl contemplates the transformation from seed to sunflower and back to seed again, from spring planting through winter snow. The poetic lines are exquisite, philosophical yet concrete: "My hoe breaks apart / the clods of brown earth, / but you do the real work / down in the dark. / Not radish work or pumpkin, / not thistle work- / sunflower work. / All the instructions / are written in your heart." Chodos-Irvine's bold illustrations, utilizing various "nontraditional printmaking techniques and materials," juxtapose images of sunflower and sun and emphasize curving circular shapes that reinforce the recurring progression of life, the seasons and day and night. "A sunflower seed / is smaller than a word." Like the sunflower seed, the words and images in this book contain in a spare, elegant package an entire a life cycle. The large, wonderfully patterned illustrations are perfect for sharing, and the ideas lend themselves to discussion and curriculum applications for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152057961
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.36 (w) x 11.56 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

SUSAN MARIE SWANSON has written several picture books and teaches poetry to children through a writers-in-the-schools residency program. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

MARGARET CHODOS-IRVINE is the illustrator of many highly praised children's books, including several she has also written. She lives in Seattle, Washington.


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