The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Oct. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823450701.
K-Gr 4–The book opens on Calliope hummingbird, “the smallest bird in the United States. At just 8 centimeters long from beak tip to tail, these tiny birds are small enough to fit” in a child’s hand, and the brown-skinned girl is using an all-terrain wheelchair while the rest of the people in the Southwestern desert setting of the United States gather around a guide near a large saguaro cactus. Smaller still, though, is a Western Pygmy Blue butterfly, smaller than a penny, but even that is not as small as the smallest bee. Step by step, centimeter by centimeter, Chin scales down the point of view until readers are staring into the human vellus hair, the bacteria beneath it, skin cells, molecules, protons, and further, to elementary particles, the smallest building blocks known to us at this time. Like a high-speed camera, the narrative then backs away, as these blocks build landscapes, the beasts of the plains, and the universe, arranged just so for every living thing and structure, including the titular “you.” There is a moment in the book when it feels as if Chin has, through science alone, reverse-engineered Genesis itself. But whether in the writing or page after page of cascading spreads drawing the eye in, science and poetry create a flawless blend of information, delivered with grace and confidence. Notes on the writing and illustration help children divine fact from guidance and learning aids (such as using color on elements that are essentially colorless); back matter includes a table of elements, selected sources, and a spread called “The Building Blocks of Life.”
VERDICT This book is a proper revelation, putting the “you” in universe and giving children a way to grasp the infinity of the world and every particle of the planet. Exquisite.

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