Friday, June 7, 2019

Shelf Awareness--Small World

PB Review: Small World

Small World by Ishta Mercurio, illus. by Jen Corace (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781419734076, July 2, 2019)

When Nanda is young, "the whole" of her world is composed of comforting circles. Just after she's born, this means being "wrapped in the circle of her mother's arms." As a toddler, the meaning expands to include "the circle of her loving family" and, as a girl of elementary-school age, there is room for "a bubble of giggling playmates."

It's not long before Nanda's world encompasses other shapes, as well. Nanda gets "bigger and bigger," and her world grows with her. It opens up to include not only the natural wonder that is "a sway of branches," but also human creations like "scaffolds of steel" and "cables and cogs." Nanda's world continues to increase in size as she rides a train from the "sun-kissed maze of wheat" near her hometown, past "pinecone-prickled mountains and the microscopic elegance of fractals in the snow," all the way to the "symphony of glass and stone" that defines her college years.

Nanda's lifelong love of science "spool[s] through spirals of wire and foam" at school, where she helps to create "a human-powered helicopter" with her classmates. Still, Nanda and her world continue to grow. As Nanda gets "bigger and bigger and BIGGER," her world becomes "the roar of twin engines, a glittering ocean far below, and the curve of the planet beneath her." Nanda's world expands even more, to include "a sea of stars, moonless and deep," as her feet touch "foreign soil" in outer space.

Mercurio's gorgeously poetic text effortlessly balances the wonders of the natural world with the wonders created by scientists and engineers. Her repeating refrain as Nanda gets bigger and bigger ensures that this story is comforting to its youngest readers, while including enough variation to inspire older ones. Corace's gouache, ink and pencil spreads are always warm and bright, anchored by geometric shapes and patterns. Of particular importance are those comforting circles--on the very first spread, baby Nanda forms the bottom half of a circle which is completed by her mother's loving arms, a strong image that is mirrored at the end by two distinct half circles that form the "softly glowing" Earth, "a circle called home." The illustrations reinforce the text's premise that, with encouragement and self-motivation, Nanda will continue to feel secure in her "safe, and warm, and small" world, even as its boundaries expand. An author's endnote relates how the inspiration for this story came from a photograph taken at the Indian Space Research Organization showing five women "celebrating after they had helped put a satellite into orbit around Mars." Small World, like that photograph, depicts the joy there is to be found when young girls and women "all over the world" follow their dreams. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Shelf Talker: As Nanda grows, so does her world, in this sweet and inspiring story about perspective and following your dreams.

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