Mina and the Whole Wide World
I absolutely adore verse novels and have been eagerly anticipating this new verse novel by Sherryl Clark. Mina and the Whole Wide World is a gentle and touching story which illuminates the enduring power of kindness and friendship.
Mina can't wait to move into her very own bedroom - she even has a box of special stuff to put in her new room, including the globe of the world she found at a garage sale. But her dream of having her own space is shattered when her parents make the decision to give her room to Azzami - a boy she's never met before - who is in need of a place to stay when his mother gets sick.
Mina feels broken, like the glass unicorn she finds hidden under her little brother's bed. She refuses to get to know the quiet new boy Azzami, who doesn't even seem to appreciate his beautiful new room. The kids at school tease Azzami because he doesn't speak - and Mina can't help feeling confused and angry that Azzami won't stand up for himself.
When Azzami finally finds a way to share his story without having to find the words, Mina slowly comes to understand his sadness. It is only then that she can start to make room for Azzami in her heart.
This is a beautifully crafted book, from the spare reflective text, to the accompanying expressive black-and-white illustrations. The characters in the story are portrayed by artist Briony Stewart with warmth and charm.
Sherryl Clark handles her subject matter with assurance and sensitivity, the free verse narrative allowing the pure heart of the story to shine through. Verse novels, by their very nature, need to hook the reader in immediately without excess words or explanations, and this book does so beautifully, drawing the reader into Mina's world with a charmingly simple and intimate voice.
This book is a perfect example of why I love verse novels so much - demonstrating the way in which a few well-crafted words can powerfully convey important and emotive themes. The free verse allows children to use their own imaginations and creativity to understand and interpret what is happening.
Mina is a delightful protagonist who young readers will readily relate to - many empathising with having to deal with a destructive younger sibling, and understanding Mina's disappointment when the one thing she longs for can no longer happen.
This book would make a great read aloud choice in a group setting, and may instigate conversation around themes of refugees, bullying, family and friendship.
Mina and the Whole Wide World shows young readers that ultimately, it is kindness and compassion which connects us all across this big wide world.
This book would be most suitable for mid to upper primary aged readers - but is one of those beautiful books that will be read and enjoyed by readers of any age.
Published by University of Queensland Press