"When Nanda was born, the whole of the world was wrapped in the circle of her mother's arms: safe, warm, small." As Nanda grows from that newborn child her world grows with her. She ventures out into the larger world of her family, then playmates, and larger and larger places and challenges. Readers see Nanda working in her room with portraits of female astronauts on the wall, reading science textbooks, piloting a small airplane. Eventually we see her on another planet. "And the Earth, softly glowing. A circle called home: safe, and warm, and small."
The repetition of those phrases closes the circle of the story. It also reinforces the idea from the title that Earth is a small world. We can interpret that as a statement of size within the vastness of space, or perhaps it is only small in terms of how much all its inhabitants have in common. A discussion about circles of belonging would be a good followup after reading. This would also be an excellent story to begin a conversation about role models (all those astronaut posters show her enthusiasm), and about how they can inspire us to reach our goals.
The author's note explains how things like the Earth can be both big and small at the same time - everything is relative. It also explains how Nanda was chosen for the name of the protagonist of the story. For all those who appreciate seeing diversity in books, it is wonderful to see a brown-skinned young woman succeeding in her aspirations and to hear that her name was inspired by women from the Indian Space Research Organization. It is a small world indeed.
I had the pleasure of meeting the creators of the book and having a copy autographed for our school library. The book actually goes on sale July 2.