A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity. I started to feel very, very small. How could I even think about something as big as infinity?”
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As a child, I used to sit and think about infinity. And the universe. And how the universe might not have an end. And, if it did, what it could possibly look like. I have very distinct memories of wondering about this. If I wasn’t sitting and listening to my stack of 45s with my trusty record player at my side (think: Peaches & Herbs and Donna Summer), I could probably be found sitting there having my mind blown, wondering if the universe just falls off or if there’s a dividing line of some sort that points to hell-if-I-knew-what. (In between my 45s and ruminations on space and utter boundlessness, I watched an episode or two of The Price Is Right.)
This is not unusual. Children think about such abstract concepts, and many of us grown-ups find them difficult to explain. (I am still clueless about the universe’s end, and if I ever find out the answer, I doubt I’ll be able to report back here.) In Infinity and Me, which will be released by Carolrhoda Books next month, Kate Hosford (author) and Gabi Swiatkowska (illustrator) explore this notion — that something can exist with no limits. And they do it well.
When the book opens, a young girl, named Uma, sits and stares at the stars, wondering how many could possibly be in the sky. “I started to feel very, very small,” she says. “How could I even think about something as big as infinity?”
She asks her friends and family for their thoughts on the matter and is met with a variety of ideas, all brought imaginatively and cleverly to life by Swiatkowska. Perhaps it’s a giant number that just keeps growing; maybe it’s the lemniscate, or infinity symbol (“an eight that fell over and took a nap”), as a racetrack; or it could be thought of as not unlike a family tree. It can be understood, one of the school’s lunchroom employees suggests to Uma, by imagining cutting a tiny piece of noodle in half forever. Indeed, Uma realizes she can’t think about infinity without pondering the notion of forever, so she then begins to wonder which things she could do forever: Could she be eight years old forever, but more importantly, would she want to be? Could she lick an ice cream cone forever?
Hosford brings this abstract notion of indefinite-great-numbers-of-something and unlimited-extents-of-the-somethings-of-our-lives into the world of the concrete. Swiatkowska’s illustrations do the same, while simultaneously balancing it with whimsy, as she is wont to do in her artwork (for instance, Uma and friend racing around an infinity racetrack with a rooster running close behind).
And it’s all framed with some red shoes. Uma’s got a new pair, you see, and wants someone to notice them. Her head is full to burstin’ with trying to understand ginormous magnitudes all day, and then lo and behold her grandmother finally acknowledges the one tiny and beautiful thing that she can comprehend at the moment, while Uma realizes she has landed upon her own way of understanding the concept of forever: “Right then I knew—my love for her was as big as infinity.”
And that is why the Kirkus review describes this one as a “stellar artistic vision of the infinite power of intergenerational love.”
INFINITY AND ME. Copyright © 2012 by Kate Hosford. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Gabi Swiatkowska. Published by Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher.