How can a young child come to understand their place between the microcosm of quarks and the macrocosm of vast space? How can they begin knitting together the complex relationships between the present moment, their ancestors' lives, and future generations? These are enormous questions, and Laura Alary — who has a background in theology and biblical studies — does not hesitate to approach them. She offers clarity and gentleness suited to five-to-ten years olds' sensitivity about where they belong in the grand scheme of things.
She starts — where else? — in a child's bedroom, so often the first place with which a child identifies. Illustrator Cathrin Peterslund makes the room realistically (but not too) messy: the floor strewn with stray socks, crayons and drawings, an open backpack, toy dinosaurs, and more. As the girl at the center of the story opens her window shade to look out at the world, she tells us, "This is my home. I live here. But I am not the first." Already she has opened a wider envelope for belonging.
From there, the text and pictures team up to give readers a wide-ranging tour through time, space, and questions, starting close to home. We see the good things people who lived in the house before left behind, like the swing, and the not-so-good things, like a broken bike wheel and a graying old blanket. We see the girl's special places, like her calm spot underneath the staircase, and hear her questions about who will care for these places when she lives somewhere else. We listen to her thoughts about the people who were "here before me," going all the way back to pioneers and, "further back," to indigenous tribes. She reflects on some of the gifts and damage this long stream of ancestors have left behind.
Then she observes — her words accompanied by Peterslund's image of a blue-swirled, half-shaded Earth suspended in starry space — "This is my home too."
I wish I could wrap my arms around it.
Care for it all.
Clean it up.
But it is too big.
And I am too small.
The rest of the book addresses that dilemma, faced by all of us in one way or another. It shows the value of devotion to the things right before our eyes that need loving attention. If it's true that all of have an inner child, then what better words could we embrace than "Start here"?