Wide Big World (Maxine Beneba Clarke, illus by Isobel Knowles, Lothian)
Wide Big World is a cheerful and direct celebration of difference that uses the natural wonders of the world to highlight the diversity of experiences around us. Written mainly as a dialogue between two kindergarten-aged children and their teacher (the ‘hairy and tall’ Mr Jay), the book gently explores how to deal with playground incidents of racism and acknowledges the strengths in being ‘wonderous-unique’. In her second picture book, author Maxine Beneba Clarke’s decision to use simple but evocative text and a first-person perspective makes issues around bullying and respect accessible to a young audience. Isobel Knowles’ tissue-paper illustrations use the medium’s transparent qualities to create warm, colourful scenes. The pictures are also full of diversity and inclusion, which reflect the themes of the book. The ability of the text to transport readers to the main character’s perspective coupled with the simple clarity of the pictures make this an appropriate read-along for preschool-aged children. This book would be a great starting point for conversations about fostering positive relationships with others and taking the initiative to practice inclusivity, both at home and at school.
Louise Pfanner is an author, illustrator and bookseller