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Kids Picture Book Review – Small World by Ishta Mercurio

SMALL WORLD

By Ishta Mercurio

Illustrated by Jen Corace

(Abrams BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

★Starred Review – School Library Journal

When Nanda is born, the whole of her world is the circle of her mother’s arms, but as she grows the world grows too. Small World, the debut picture book by writer Ishta Mercurio, takes the reader on a journey into Nanda’s world through shapes and structures, with out-of-this world illustrations by Jen Corace that are STEM themed “geometric meditations on wonder.”

This picture book’s colorful and stunning art, created with the matte finish of gouache, ink and pencil, introduces the young reader to the circle of Nanda’s loving South Asian family. Mom is seated dressed in a beautiful sari and scarf, while the siblings sit around the table with Nanda on her father’s lap. The round plates and faces are the first introduction to the various geometric shapes introduced to the reader. Page after page brings us into Nanda’s growing life from “slide and swings and whirligigs and tumbles through grass” as she plays with her playmates, until ultimately she goes off to college on her own, “But as she grew, the world grew, too.”

 

Small World Int1

Interior spread from Small World written by Ishta Mercurio with illustrations by Jen Corace, Abrams Books for Young Readers ©2019.

 

We visually watch as the world grows from the ground up as Nanda rises closer to the sky in “a human-powered helicopter lifting toward the sky.” Corace’s drawings depict girls playing inside on a basketball court, while Nanda “spooled through spirals of wire and foam: a human-powered helicopter lifting toward the sky.”

The deep blue sea outlines the town of square houses, boxes of farmland and round shaped trees, while our main character is seen soaring solo in a small airplane from above. “Nanda got bigger and bigger and BIGGER. But as she grew, the world grew, too.”

Soon new faces are seen looking up towards the sky as a space shuttle blasts off and we discover that Nanda is as high above the sky as one can be—Nanda has grown up to become an astronaut. Her “feet have touched foreign soil.” Wearing a space helmet surrounded by “A sea of stars, moonless and deep, distant suns twinkling … Marbled planets orbiting, speck-small in the distant night …”

 

Small World Int2

Interior spread from Small World written by Ishta Mercurio with illustrations by Jen Corace, Abrams Books for Young Readers ©2019.

 

Small World offers young readers the opportunity to think big and expand their horizons. They can see that Earth’s size varies based on perspective—large under little feet, but when you go into space, it’s easier to see how small our planet is compared to the size of the universe. Mercurio says, “children can see the Earth being as big and small at the same time in the same way that you are big and small at the same time.” Just like Nanda, if you stick with your ideas as you grow older, you will see more of our world and maybe even more of the universe.

In an Author’s Note, the reader is asked where they would go if they were Nanda and what places they have visited. Small World encourages young children to reach for the stars and to know that anything is possible. Beautifully written and illustrated, it’s both a positive and encouraging read with its “You can do this” message. Mercurio actually named her main character, Nanda, joy in Hindu Sanskrit, in honor of five women photographed celebrating at the Indian Space Research Organization after they had helped put a satellite into orbit around Mars.

  • Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

Read a review of another STEM picture book here.

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Telephone by Mac Barnett

Heard it through the grapevine!

Have you heard about Telephone, the new picture book written by award-winning and bestselling author Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jen Corace?

☆Starred Review – Publishers Weekly

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If you read this blog often you’ll certainly know we’re big Mac Barnett fans and now we’re spreading the word that we’ve added Jen Corace to our list of faves.

Telephone, the schoolyard game so beloved by generations of kids, has been playfully reimagined and reaches new heights of humor when birds on a telephone wire pass along a message. You know the game, a simple sentence, in this case “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner,” is changed by each consecutive messenger until it’s unrecognizable.

The hilarity comes not only from the misunderstandings, but from Corace’s artistic interpretation of the tale. My favorite spreads are of an acrophobic turkey, “Tell Peter: I’m too high up on this wire,” which in turn gets misinterpreted by a fire fearing bird with “Tell Peter: Something smells like fire!”

Kids are going to love how each bird on the telephone wire hears the message based on his or her own particular interests. The variety of birds and their hobbies are beautifully illustrated by Corace. Don’t miss all the details she’s so carefully created such as the shadows of the birds in the first spread and the way neighbors seem to also be sharing news.

The picture book’s theme of communication and listening versus hearing lends itself well to a discussion with children about how our own experiences and feelings can play a huge role in what we hear, thought we heard or want to hear. Of course Barnett gets it right by saving the wise old owl until just before the very end. After hearing the sheer nonsense Peter’s mom’s original message has become, the owl’s able to cool, calm and collectedly straighten things out.

So in a word, or a few, tell your children to read this book or better yet, read it to them. Pass it on!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

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Sweet, Sweet Dreams

sweetdreams-gfReviewer Debbie Glade shares her opinion of a cuddle up and get cozy bedtime book.

In a sea of picture books, the cover of Sweet Dreams ($16.95, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ages 3 and up), written by Rose A. Lewis and illustrated by Jen Corace really caught my eye, beckoning me to open it to see what’s inside.

With simple rhyming verse from mother to child, the pages are filled with descriptions about the animals living nearby and what they do at night. The book is meant to be read slowly, and the beautiful watercolor pictures are meant to inspire.  While children learn a bit about animals, they are lured ever so gently to sleep.

“And the very teeny, tiny mouse

Soaking wet from a big puddle,

Curled up under the moonflowers’ vines,

Just waiting for a cuddle.”

Simply put, Sweet Dreams is a charming bedtime story with outstanding illustrations and that calming quality all parents of young readers need to rely on from time to time to get their active kids to sleep.

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