It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Hello, World! [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written and Illustrated by Ethan Long
Published by Henry Holt & Co. (2020)
ISBN: 1250191750 (ISBN13: 9781250191755). Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
It has been awhile since I have read a fun picturebook like this. I learned about this title (which I would not otherwise gravitate towards) through Betsy Bird’s 31 Days 31 Lists Picturebooks post. I was delighted to see that it was available on Overdrive – which may not be the most ideal version of ‘reading’ or better yet, experiencing this book, with all the tiny details and visual codes and games embedded into the narrative.
True to our current reading theme on joy-makers, this community is called “Happy County” – and like classic tales (it has been compared to Richard Scarry for good reason), this one starts off happily and ends off quite happily too. I found myself smiling at little things incorporated into the images (see Ewe-Haul above). There are a thousand and one things that can keep an attentive reader occupied.
While it clearly has an educational component to it, with a seek-and-find-activity-type vibe to the book, it is clear that Ethan Long had fun creating characters in an idealized environment where the only pressing issue is where Mr. Rhinehorn should take his afternoon nap or how Dottie the Dog Walker can manage walking 10 dogs at the same time.
I honestly feel that there is more than enough space for feel-good, joyful, unapologetically-happy narratives such as this one. It can be a comforting escape for most young readers, especially those who are struggling to find some routine, structure, and uncomplicated community in a life filled with upheaval and uncertainty.
Small World [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Ishta Mercurio Illustrated by Jen Corace
Published by Harry N. Abrams (2019)
ISBN: 1419734075 (ISBN13: 9781419734076) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
I read this book last year and re-read it again early this year, and found it to be even more compelling and layered compared to the first time I read it.
The story begins with a baby girl named Nanda who was “wrapped in the circle of her mother’s arms: safe, warm, small.” It won’t take long for the reader to realize that the phrase “But as she grew, the world grew too” would echo like a refrain throughout the pages of this lyrical picturebook that has captured the boundlessness of the universe in purples, repetition, and wide-eyed awe.
It could be the fact that my only daughter is graduating from high school in a few months’ time – or it could be the pandemic that has rendered me emotionally vulnerable – but I do think that there is something so disarming in the way that this narrative is told. It takes the reader from the warmth of a mother’s embrace to the expansive space very few are privileged to see and seek – making the reader recalibrate notions of scale, perspective, and infinity.
I was also especially pleased to see the Author’s Note detailing how she was inspired to name the girl in this picturebook Nanda:
When the time came to name the girl in this book, I kept thinking about a picture I had seen of five women at the Indian Space Research Organization celebrating after they had helped put a satellite into orbit around Mars. The photograph spoke to girls all over the world. It said, ‘You can do this.’ In honor of these women and their work, I named the girl in my story Nanda, which means ‘joy.’
Ishta Mercurio also describes herself to have grown up in a multicultural family: raised by an Irish-German-Italian-American father and a Polish-American-Filipino mother. It is surprising that this is her first picturebook: it is so distilled yet sweeping, sparse yet lyrical, deeply moving but not veering off to maudlin sentiments. I hope that there will be more books of her to read in the coming year.
#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 10 out of target 100 (for Small World)