Small World

Small World
Ishta Mercurio and Jen Corace
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Quietly powerful is Ishta Mercurio’s lyrical story of Nanda.
Her life starts as a tiny baby, wrapped safely in the ‘circle of her mother’s arms.’

As she grows, so too does her world; it grows to encompass the ‘circle of her loving family’ and spreads outwards and outwards to become ‘a sway of branches …’

… ‘a sun-kissed maze of wheat … Pinecone-prickled mountains and the microscopic elegance of fractals in the snow.’

As a young woman her interest in flight takes her to the skies, piloting a plane and then as an astronaut, clad in a spacesuit far out into space, the culmination of her pushing out the edges of her world.

Standing among ‘A sea of stars’, gazing into ‘ink-black space’ viewing Earth from afar she realises that she’s come full circle;

for what she sees is a distant place ‘safe, and warm and small’, as it was when she was that tiny baby in her mother’s arms all ‘those years ago.

The author’s richly detailed narrative paints a gorgeously meditative picture of the girl’s life and this is beautifully visualised in Jen Corace’s gouache, ink, and acrylic, richly patterned spreads that have a quiet, graceful serenity.
The empowering message that emerges from both is that the combination of learning and of the imagination has the potential to open up the entire world.

All in all it’s an elegant celebration of dreaming big, working hard and the joys of discovery especially in things STEAM.
This is a book that should work with older readers/listeners rather than little ones.

The Dreamer

The Dreamer
Il Sung Na
Chronicle Books

Pig, an admirer of birds has a dream; he too wants to fly.

He’s a determined creature and having watched them fly south he sets to work to discover the secrets of flight. With the help of his friends – assorted feathered ones, a horse, a rabbit and a pink pachyderm – he amasses information, develops plans, fails …

modifies, perseveres and finally, he is triumphant. Ambition achieved: he can fly like a bird.

Still not satisfied, the sky’s the limit, decides Pig as he sits staring up at a large round object amid the stars.
His achievements inspire others the world over

and yet … ‘in my beginning is my end’ to borrow some words from T.S.Eliot; and so it is with this story that ends as it began, “Once, there was a pig who admired birds.’

This is a beautiful tale made all the more so by the fact that the book was inspired by Il Sung Na’s own life journey towards becoming a creator of picture books. He clearly has a sense of humour as is shown in his somewhat whimsical ink and pencil, digitally composited illustrations. I love the scene of Pig sitting beneath the tree with an apple falling before his eyes a la Newton; and that of the friends also gathered under that same tree with an apple precariously balanced on a branch ready to drop.

Dream big, work hard, seek advice, never give up and eventually with determination and imagination, success will come. So it was for Pig, so it will be one hopes, for young children who share in his story. It’s simple yet profound.