From the front page it is almost as if this book is reaching out to hug you. In uncertain times this is exactly what this picture book does. It provides reassurance and hope. It is the first title in the publisher Tiny Owls ‘Hope in a Scary World’ series. Which aims to build up a collection of books which help children (and adults) who may feel frightened or worried about world events. It is written and illustrated by award winning Iranian author Anahita Teymorian.
On one level this is a simple tale about a boy who grows up with the acceptance he needs, who then notices as an adult that everyone around him is fighting for space big and small, and then reflects with some very sound advice that through kindness and acceptance we can make room for everyone.
It is supported by the most wonderful illustrations, which have been drawn by the author. For anyone who has followed me on twitter (@melissacreate15) you know how much I love children’s picture books, despite this I can honestly say I have never seen illustrations quite like this before. Each page is backed by a warm comforting colour palette, and the choice to draw people with over extended arms is really effective. As a couple of my bookish twitter friends have also said this is the kind of book you keep being drawn back to.
On another level there are multiple layers and overlapping messages. Each reader may interpret things differently. This book is suitable for younger children aged 5+ years, but it’s real power as a book that helps you make sense of the world and find hope may lie with older children, teenagers and adults.
It ‘s the possibility of multiple messages from this story that has made it challenging to write about this heartwarming, thoughtful and hopeful book. Below are some of my reflections on what this story means to me.
My personal RESPONSE this story
Reflecting on this story I found the piece at the back of the book in which the author explains where her ideas came from was useful. It was a response to the fighting in the world that is always on the TV and a desire to show that we can accept and make room for each other and show kindness – a desire to give a positive message as an antidote to all the uncertain things that are happening in the world.
In the first part of the story the boy is growing up, and at each stage in his development he uses an example of how there was always enough space. On another level this reflects what many parents feel when a child is born, that their house feels small and they wonder how they will make room. But, one does accommodate, adapt and find space and this space is re-negotiated as the child get’s bigger. At the same time a strong and powerful parallel is drawn to nature, where the author says “there is enough space for the stars” and the “birds in the garden.”. For me there is another message here of how taking time to notice and observe nature can both centre and calm us.
I love how as the boy grows up the scale of what he notices and sees gets bigger a bit like a child and young person’s expanding view of the world. So we go from space for all his toys to space for all the fish in the sea.
As he grows up he notices people are fighting for small and big spaces. And once again the wonderful pictures add power and emotion to the words. In a world of uncertainties where so much has changed and is changing this story both acknowledges the existence of things that may make us feel scared or worried, whilst also providing us with the reassurance of the constant presence of nature. There is one thing we can control and that is we can choose to be kind to ourselves and to each other.
You can find out more and view a great video by the author on Tiny Owls website
You can purchase the book from me at Readers that Care or order it from a good local bookshop