So Big! by Mike Wohnoutka (9781547600793)
A very positive picture book about first-day jitters when starting school. Bear is “so big,” a refrain that carries through the entire book. He is big enough to get himself dressed. He is so big that he can make his own breakfast too. He packs his own bag, ties his shoes, and heads out to the bus stop. But when the bus gets there, it is so big! The kids around him are big too. So is the large school. Bear is worried and sits down on the steps. There he notices a smaller child hesitating to go in too. The two join hands and head into the big school together where they discover that it’s not too big after all.
Wohnoutka’s story is told in the simplest of words by repeating “so big” and other phrases multiple times. It’s a story about confidence that starts strong, is lost along the way and rediscovered too. The bravery that it takes to try something completely new and then the resilience that is necessary to keep moving forward even when scared is shown deftly in this simple story.
The art is bright and centers entirely on Bear and the other children. Perspective is used very effectively to show how large the bus, the children and the school appear to a small child. Other times when he is more confident, Bear takes up space on the page and the perspective shifts to allow that.
Great for first day jitters, this book is simple and effective. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
I Am Small by Qin Leng (9781525301155)
Mimi is very small for her age. She’s the shortest in her class at school and the shortest in her family too. Mimi thinks about all of the problems with being the shortest, like viewing pastries in the bakery or being unable to write higher on the blackboard. Her friends see it differently. They point out that she wins at hide-and-seek, that she gets to be first in line at lunch and gets the biggest piece of cake. At home there are advantages too. Mimi can fit between Mom and Dad in their bed, she can swim in the bathtub, and she can even ride on the back of their dog! So when someone even small than Mimi joins the family, Mimi knows just what to say.
Leng has illustrated many several books for children and this is her first time authoring a book. She has created an ode to the challenges and beauty of being small that children on the small side will easily relate to. As the book progresses, Mimi’s tone about her size changes to a much more positive one, just in time for her new little brother to appear. There is a focus on self-acceptance in this picture book that will shine no matter what your size.
Leng’s illustrations are whimsical and fresh. In Mimi, she has created a wonderfully androgynous little girl grappling with her size. Leng populates her pages with small touches and details that bring her scenes to life. Just the feel of characters clothing and the play of movement on the page are special.
A book about self-esteem that proves that size doesn’t matter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Who’s the Biggest? by Delphine Chedru (9780500651490)
This is a very simple picture book that is all about size and teaches the concepts of bigger and smaller. The book focuses on which animal is bigger, comparing one to another. One each page, one of the animals declares “I am!” There are big things on the page like elephants and trees. Then there are also smaller objects like flowers and bees to compare. The book is just right for very small children to learn the concept in a positive and fast-paced way. As mentioned in the book, with a little creativity, the book can be read to say which one is smallest too.
Chedru’s text is simple, yet she plays with some of the phrases, making sure that each animal speaks in their own distinct way. The illustrations are strong and graphical with deep colors combined with bright ones that burst on the page. Even though the story has a strong structure, there are surprises on each page with the page turn.
A book worth exploring with toddlers. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (InfoSoup)
Willowdean doesn’t spend her days worrying about how fat she is, though her mother’s nickname of “Dumplin'” can be a problem, especially when used in public. Her mother is in charge of the local beauty pageant and has never encouraged Will to enter, though she has told Will’s best friend Ellen that she could win. When a boy at her work at a local fast food joint starts to flirt with Will, she is shocked. Bo is a gorgeous guy and someone that moves in a different social level than Will. When the two of them start to make out after work in their own secret place, Will begins to question her comfort with her body. As Will’s confidence plummets, she makes a big decision. She’s going to enter the Miss Clover City pageant. As she reclaims her self-image, she ends up helping other girls do the same.
Murphy’s novel is simply brilliant. Willowdean is a wonderful protagonist and the claustrophobic setting of a small southern town is also perfection. It’s that setting that lets Will really shine, since it wears on her and the reader. Add in the Dolly Parton songs, the loss of a beloved aunt who served as a second parent, and a handful of red suckers, and this novel will have you head-over-heels in love with Will and everything that she stands for.
Murphy gets the fat-girl personality just right. The feeling of complete self-acceptance that you can have and then the way it can disappear as if it never existed. Murphy though does not accept that. Instead Will fights back, recovers from her funk about herself, insists on relationships on her own terms, and heck even falls in love for good measure.
A book that will have you turning on Dolly yourself, this novel for teens shines and dazzles. It’s for girls of every size, because none of us feel worthy enough. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
Little Big by Jonathan Bentley
A little boy thinks that it would be much better to be big than so little. After all, his older brother can reach the cookie jar and ride a bicycle. If the little boy had legs as long as a giraffe, he would be able to outrace his brother up the hill. On the other hand, he wouldn’t be able to ride in the wagon behind his brother’s bike anymore. If he had big hands like a gorilla, he would be able to open the cookie jar with no problems. But then, he wouldn’t be able to fit in his playhouse to eat them. If he had a mouth as big as a crocodile’s, he could tell his brother to go to bed early. But then, he would miss him too. Perhaps being little isn’t entirely bad after all.
Originally published in Australia, this picture book has a lot of playful appeal. The universal feeling of younger siblings is that they wish that they were bigger. Here, that yearning for being bigger is combined with some even larger animals. The book tells the story purely in the little boy’s voice, keeping the perspective clearly that of a small child. Yet the logic all works from that point of view too.
The illustrations are a mix of watercolors, pencil and scanned textures. They have a warmth and vibrancy to them which is very appealing. While the thought of a small child wanting to be bigger is not unique to this book, it is the illustrations which make this a book worth seeking out. The animals that the toddler dreams of being like are his toys that he carries around from one page to the next, making for a book that has a completeness and wholeness about it.
A delightful book that shows littler ones that they have advantages too, this picture book is ideal for sharing one-on-one so the details of the illustrations are not missed. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
An orange bear declares to a smaller blue bear that the shorter one is “small.” The little one says that that is not true, rather the orange bear is “big.” The orange bear shows that he has other big creatures just like him and just his size, but so does the blue bear. The two groups start to argue and fight about whether they are big or small. Then another creature arrives and another one yet that help put size into perspective for everyone.
This very simple book has a great sense of humor throughout. The creatures that seem like bears to me are fuzzy and friendly. Against the white background, the bears pop on the page. With only a few lines per page, this book will be enjoyed by small children learning about concepts like big and small. The humor makes the entire lesson in size and relativity completely enjoyable and it will be a book that children will ask to be read again. There is even a great little (or big) twist at the end.
Weyant’s illustrations are a large part of the appeal of the book. The New Yorker cartoonist has created fuzzy creatures that are loveable and cute as can be, no matter what size they are. Weyant has clearly loved playing with the differences in sizes, creating characters who live large on the page.
Bold illustrations, charming characters and funny situations make this a winning picture book for the smallest (and largest) among us. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC received from Two Lions.
Big Bug by Henry Cole
Start with a close up of a ladybug in this picture book and then everything is put into perspective. If you step back, the big bug on the first pages is not so big compared to the big leaf it is sitting on. That leaf turns small when seen as just a part of a flower. Then a big dog appears only to be dwarfed by the big cow on the next page. This continues until the reader is looking at the big sky. Then the book reverses and the perspective gets closer and tighter, returning in the end to that same dog now sleeping inside.
This is a very simple book that is superbly done. Cole plays nicely with perspective and with concepts. The book can easily be used as a way to show the differences between big and small, but I think the real treat is showing children that perspective is important and understanding size is too. With only a couple of words on each page, the book is imminently readable, especially by a child just starting to read on their own.
Cole’s art is clear and lovely. The perspective changes are done vividly and the page where you linger with the big big sky for a moment is particularly lovely with its little farm and little tree. It also serves as a very clear pivot point in the book thanks to the design of the page.
Show this one to art teachers, preschool teachers, and kids who enjoy a huge insect. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Little Simon.
How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge
Whenever you think of dinosaurs, they are like the one on the cover of the book. Huge, green and either placid plant eaters or ferocious meat eaters. This nonfiction picture book takes a look at dinosaurs that are quite different. There is the microraptor who is the size of a chicken. The long-named Leaellynasaura stood as tall as an emperor penguin and lived in that same climate. Of course there were bigger dinosaurs too. The akylosaurus stood as tall as an SUV. There were dinosaurs with huge claws that ate plants, ones with armor and still others with odd parts of the body that no one understands yet.
Judge carefully chooses her dinosaurs in this book. Understanding that the littlest dinosaurs lack the vibrant punch of the huge ones, the book quickly changes to the more imposing creatures. She shares just enough about each dinosaur to make the book readable. In fact, this is one nonfiction picture book about dinosaurs that could be shared at a storytime or aloud in a unit. Judge packs lots of fascinating facts into the book. It ends with the science behind figuring out what dinosaurs used to look like and a fold-out page with all of the dinosaurs in the book shown next to each other with lots of numbers and facts.
Judge’s playful illustrations are great fun. Throughout the book, she uses humans to show the scale of the dinosaurs as well as other animals. The humans don’t just stand next to the dinosaurs, they interact and react to them. I particularly enjoyed the image of the woman batting at a dinosaur with a broom. It’s those little touches of humor that suit this book so well.
Readable, fun and filled with science, this book on dinosaurs will be a welcome addition to those crowded shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.