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.

Our Dog Benji / Little Oink

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Our Dog Benji
Pete Carter and James Henderson
EK Books
The small boy narrator of this little book has a large dog; a dog that, unlike the boy, is pretty much omnivorous, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, avocado, grass, daffodils, ice-cream – understandably – are all tasty treats for the animal.

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Mornings see him searching the kitchen floor for crumbs, at mealtimes he sits hopefully under the table and even goes off alone on food forays. Building sites (for the odd bite of a sandwich) …

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and parties for a sample of ‘posh food’ are also fruitful places for a visit.
Summer comes with samplings of crunchy bugs and unripe apples (with dramatic effects on his tum and er… bum). What about our narrator though? He seems to be acquiescing somewhat: did I hear a mention of eating fruit and veg.?
Not however the green crunchy leaf stalks of a certain vegetable beginning with c.
Henderson’s duo-tone artwork works well for this tale of a food faddy child and his dog. Adults concerned about fussy eaters especially, will smile at Carter’s tale and hope that perhaps like the small boy protagonist, their charges will try some new foods, perhaps even ‘green stuff’

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Little Oink
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
The hero of this board book, Little Oink, is a tiny treasure; a fun loving, nursery school savouring, family loving little guy. However, unlike most youngsters, he has a great dislike for mess-making of any kind; in fact he wants everything to be just so: after all his pals are allowed to have tidy rooms. “Why can’t I?” Little Oink asks his parents one day.

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Papa Pig’s ‘respectable grown up pigs are proper mess makers’ explanation and Mama Pig’s proviso for going out to play, “Mess up your room, put on some dirty clothes,” have him obeying – eventually. Then off he goes to have fun – playing … house!

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This makes a trilogy of ‘Little’ books from Rosenthal and again, her humour shines through and is delightfully illuminated through Jen Corace’s deliciously droll illustrations.

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Goodnight Tiger/Little Hoot

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Goodnight Tiger
Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes
Little Tiger Press
It’s the middle of the night and Emily is still wide awake; but what is the cause of the BELLOWING, STOMPING, TRUMPETING and GROWLING that’s stopping her from sleeping? It’s not animals out in the street escaped from the zoo, nor anything under the bed, or in amongst her clothes and toys – she’s checked those possibilities; my goodness, that commotion is actually emanating from the animals on her wallpaper. They too, so they tell Emily, are unable to sleep. So she climbs into the wallpaper and thus begins a lesson – or rather several –on getting ready for bed, as the young miss takes them through a routine of bathing themselves, having a goodnight hot chocolate drink …

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snuggling up with a cuddly bear and a lullaby rendition. But even after all this, there’s only one tired being and it certainly isn’t any of the animals. Did I just say routine though? What actually happened was tiger caused a rumpus at the water hole; the drink was truly disgusting, the bear bolted and the lullaby became a raucous chorus …

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Hold on though, what’s that Emily is clutching?

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Could this be the answer to the animals’ insomnia and finally, her own …
Well, yes and no: it certainly works for some …

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With a satisfying final twist in the tale, this book is enormous fun to share at bedtime (though maybe not if there happens to be jungly paper on your child’s bedroom walls) or indeed at any time. Emily is a delight as are the creatures whose nocturnal world she temporarily enters. I can see this one becoming a much requested, just before bedtime favourite.

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Little Hoot
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
Little Hoot is generally a happy little fellow. He enjoys school, loves playing with his friends and will even do the practice routines his Mama Owl asks him to. But there is one thing he absolutely hates and that is staying up late. “All my other friends get to bed so much earlier than me!” he complains. Yes, he actually said that and what’s more, decides that when he grows up he’ll let his offspring go to bed as early as they want. He’s definitely not a night bird, this one despite papa Owl’s “Rules of the roost.” But off he duly goes for one hour more play …

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and it seems to be an especially long time when it comes to the last ten minutes …

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Having done his owly duty at last, he whizzes off to bed without even waiting for a bedtime story. Now that is not so good, Little Hoot.
This enchanting story will appeal to adults as much as to the young children who will delight in the irony of Little Hoot not wanting to stay up late. The tiny day birds I shared it with also loved the bed jumping and fort building in particular. My favourite scene however was that wonderful pondering practice …

 

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Adorable.

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