The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell illustrations by Maurice Sendak 48pp RL 2
The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarell is in the same category as Abel's Island by William Steig - it is thoughtful and philosophical in a simple and elegant way. The Bat-Poet is a "little light brown bat, the color of coffee with cream in it," who begins to see the world in a different way - both metaphorically and literally - when he trains himself to become diunral instead of nocturnal. Seeing the world in daylight inspires him to write poetry so that he can share his experiences with the rest of the bats. As a poet, Jarrell naturally includes the Bat-Poet's work within the text.
While I actively shun any children's books that claim to teach life lessons (Berenstain Bears are at the top of that list followed by almost any picture book written by a celebrity) that doesn't mean that I don't think there are lessons that can be learned from a good children's book. The Bat-Poet, like Abel's Island, does just this. In a very subtle way both show how, through the creation of a work of art the main characters are both changed and, at the same time, connected to those around them. Jarrell's book does this in a natural, gentle manner and is a wonderful bedtime read-aloud or good book for a reader who is just becoming a proficient chapter book reader.