I Am The Universe by Vasanti Unka
Think soaring skies, blazing suns, deep blue oceans and colourful houses. Vasanti Unka’s I Am The Universe takes us inside the shapes, hues and shades of a magical world, that turns out to be our own. From page to page, we find The Universe becoming smaller, focusing downwards as the pictures take us on a journey inwards from infinite galaxies, to the Milky Way, to the sun, to our skies, to the earth, and its beauties, and into our homes.
The book combines beautiful pictures with opportunities for learning. On the page that features the moon, ‘an orbiting satellite, spellbound by Earth’, the names for the different shapes of the moon as it completes its orbit around the earth are listed. Meanwhile, the ‘atmosphere, blanketing Earth with breathable air’ is divided into its layers labelled from the ‘exophere’ to the ‘troposphere’. The animals of the earth leap off the page, from bright birds, to fish and sharks, and people. At the end, the book draws in to cities, neighbourhoods, and families – and at last, a child at the window, watching the stars.
There is no story as such – the narrator is the universe itself and all of its fantastical aspects. This makes it a little bit harder to engage and connect with the book because there are no characters. But there is so much detail to take in on each page that making sure not to rush and pausing to carefully examine each picture makes up for this. In fact, the lack of storyline allows more space for discussion between reader and child about what their place in the universe is, and how what a child sees around them fits into the bigger picture. It provides a visual perspective that will expand children’s understanding. However, it doesn’t go smaller than the human picture.
I Am The Universe depicts the universe as an interconnected place and brims with excitement about each child’s place in a bigger world. This richly illustrated hardcover book – of a generous size – will be a jewel in the crown of any child’s bookcase.
Reviewer: Susannah Whaley
Penguin Random House New Zealand, RRP $25