If You’re Looking for a Book About Rocks…

Sometimes the best outcome of going shopping—for a gift or for myself—is remembering that all I need to do is return home and look on my shelf or in my closet. And there I’ll find a fitting gift or garment that’s a better choice than what the store has to offer.

I had that same thought when I read about a new children’s picture book on the topic of rocks. Memories of an old favorite, If You Find a Rock by Peggy Chastain, with photographs by Barbara Hirsch Lember and published by Harcourt, Inc. 20 years ago, spurred me to search out a copy, and I was charmed all over again.

The photo illustrations are magical. They vary in perspective and include a view of a boy in mid-leap between crossing rocks in a rushing stream; a worry rock for rubbing troubles away held in hands observed at close range behind a child’s back; and a pensive girl kicking a walking rock as she makes her way home in the fading daylight.

The text engages the senses and evokes a calming aura. The author chooses words that are plain but precise—a skipping rock can “trip across the surface, making a chain of spreading rings.” When you sit on a resting rock, “you feel the cool moss squush beneath you.” When you turn over a hiding rock, “in the cool, dark underside live all kinds of things that creep and crawl and hide out of sight.”

A listing of all the kinds of rocks that have been considered, and the description of a memory rock that “reminds you of a place, or a feeling, or someone important” make for a satisfying ending.

A revision of this book for children today would include more variation in the cultures of the children featured in the photographs. Everything else is perfection.