Allison's Book Bag

The Bat Series by Brian Lies

Posted on: October 17, 2014

If you love bats, Brian Lies is an author whose books you need to know. And if you don’t like bats, Brian Lies is one author who might just change your mind with his enchanting rhymes and mesmerizing artwork. Recently, I had the opportunity to purchase Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library. My reaction is based on these two books.

The stories, which are told in rhyme, show a skilled writer at work. Lies has talked in interviews about how he doesn’t want to add to the canon of bad rhymes. Lies loves language and words and so he tries to create what he calls “chewy” language. For him, one of the big challenges but also great joys has been to avoid focusing so much on the last word that the rhymes end up hitting readers over the head with the rhyme. Instead he works on discovering little ways of dragging the ear away from the last word by using alliteration or assonance or something like that in the heart of that sentence. To my delight, I believe he has succeeded. And if you read some of the below examples, I think you will agree with me.

This first stanza comes from Bats at the Beach:

There’s really no more thrilling ride

than surfing on a summer tide.

Or sailing in the wing-boat races,

with salty sea spray in our faces.

This second stanza comes from Bats at the Library:

Some of them will drift away

and figure out a game to play,

like shaping shadows on the wall,

or wing-tip tag around the hall.

Opening up any of the bat books feels like walking into an art gallery. Each full-page spread has been beautifully illustrated with acrylic paints, but the medium isn’t what most impresses me. Rather, it’s the care which Lies has given to crafting realistic bats that astounds me. In interviews, Lies has discussed how when he creates animal characters, he doesn’t stick to just sticking animal heads and paws onto humans. Instead Lies puts his best effort into creating the actual anatomy of bats, ensuring that they look different from other animals and from humans. It doesn’t surprise me to read that people have told Lies that they like that there is so much science in his books.

I also feel amazed each time I turn a page at how detailed the scenes are. In Bats at the Beach, one sees the bright glow of campfires both up close and far away. The flecks of water feel so real, I can imagine myself being sprayed by the ocean waves. And then there’s the humorous close-up of bats toasting marshmallows with flies inside of them! In Bats at the Library, can you imagine the hours which must have gone into creating shelves upon shelves with books on them of different heights, shapes, colors, and even textures? The dabs of yellow, orange, and brown make the carpet feel so real, I can imagine its tingle on my hands. And then there’s the delightful image of the bats throwing their shadows onto a screen with a projector. There is a rhyme on one page which talks about the bats being completely swallowed up and living inside the books they read. That seems like an apt description of Lies’ own bat books, because of his incredible illustrations.

BatsBeach_Inside

BatsLibrary_Inside

Especially if one risks buying a book by an author, it’s easy to quickly feel regret. Thirty or one hundred pages in, the book has failed to spark interest or even has caused nausea. One can also feel a different kind of regret, the one which I have about the bat series. At Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival, when one faces stacks of books by well-established authors, it’s difficult to know which authors to buy books from and how many of their books to purchase. The entire bat series by Lies was available the day of the festival to be bought and signed. I regret now that I choose only to purchase two instead of all four, because each of his books has been a reading feast.

My rating? Bag them: Carry them with you. Make them a top priority to read.

How would you rate these books?

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