Children’s Book Week Review – This Small Blue Dot

Link to Catalogue record for This Small Blue Dot

This Small Blue Dot by Zeno Sworder

This book was part of the Notable list for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Early Childhood. As well as being Shortlisted for the CBCA Award for New Illustrators.

A little girl explores the big and small things in life. From contemplating our place on thisblue dot‘ to the best Italian, Chinese and Indian desserts, the book provides a broader, more inclusive view of who we are, where we come from and where our dreams may take us. The precocious young narrator shares her take on nature and the environment, wisdom from elders, embracing difference, the power of imagination and broccoli.

The main character in our book is sharing some very important life lessons with a new baby.

There are lots of very important things to teach: that we are living on a small blue dot, that it’s very special, that sometimes we will need hugs and sometimes we will be on top of the world, that strawberries are better than broccoli. I would just like to mention here how much I enjoy broccoli but it’s a good point well made regardless. Our main character shares the importance of imagination, the wisdom of their Grandpa, that red bean buns are the best Chinese dessert, and that new friends can come from anywhere.

Perhaps the most important messages of all are that we need to care for that special small blue dot and that we are walking in the footprints of those who came before and we have the opportunity to know and learn even more because of them.

This book is absolutely beautiful in concept, execution, and message.

The artwork has been done in lead pencil and crayon. The main character is always pencil-drawn, as is the baby, and the start scene and end scene where they are interacting is mostly all pencil. The middle section features a lot of colour and lovely details for the reader and the looker. There is one double-spread with a black background which is anchored in the fact we are talking about things not working up but also knowing that that too shall pass. Even the other people in the book are drawn with crayon.

This is great for children for two reasons: firstly it’s a familiar medium and they can drawn pictures that go along with the illustrations but also the way that Zeno Sworder has illustrated shows their skill but also utilises simplicity and shows how anyone can convey message through visual mediums. Children could try drawing their own under the sea experience using those same tools.

As the book says there is so much to tell you – and therefore there is so much to unpack in this book; almost every page could be unpacked into a bigger discussion and could lead to activities. This is how I would have used this book with older children and I don’t think there is any upper limit on the appeal of the book. In a classroom, back when I was a teacher, I would use this book across a term looking at all of the different advice: talking about and using our imaginations, making different dishes from different countries, investigating ways we can take care of our small blue dot, writing songs, choreographing dances, etc.

I don’t always talk about endpapers in these reviews but the ones in this book really do enrich the story. On the first one at the front of the book we see the main character drawing alone. Then on the last one at the end of the book we see the main character and the baby working together on a drawing (perhaps one of the baby?).
But, you ask, what are endpapers? They are the page at the very front of the book and the very back of the book that connects the inside covers and the first/last page of the book itself. In picture books these are often illustrated and will regularly be done in a way that relates to the book and are always worth a look.

I recommend this book to everyone, it’s a joyful reminder of how important connection is, and all of the things we share with others.