Size matters in 2022 Caldecott Medalist Jason Chin's The Universe in You, a brilliant companion to his 2020 picture book, Your Place in the Universe. While the latter encouraged young readers to expand their perspectives outward, Chin turns inward here, drawing attention to the microscopic.
Welcome to the Museum of the Desert. A tour is in progress for a group of kids, including a pigtailed child in a red wheelchair who notices a 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 your hand." The shrinking adventure begins. As Chin's focus zooms in on the child, the objects of their attention become ever smaller as their wonder increases. The journey inward continues to contract through skin cells to nucleus pores, DNA, atoms, protons and, finally, elementary particles that "are the building blocks of all physical matter." Chin then reverses the journey, visualizing how these atoms and molecules combine to make "life itself."
Chin (Watercress) cleverly presents a tiered experience that targets at least three levels of audiences. The most elementary reader will follow along on the museum tour, moving from micro to macro and back again. For the next level, Chin provides more detailed notes printed in a smaller font on various page corners--about microns, mitochondria, nanometers, molecules. For the most engaged, Chin's extensive backmatter is an illuminating delight, showcasing four colorful, dense pages of charts, tables, facts and theories. In encouraging inquisitive minds, Chin transforms the impossible into the imaginable. --Terry Hong, BookDragon