Small or Tall?


Our very own, very tall, Susan Fry brings us this week’s scoop on children’s books:

My sons are taller than average. Much taller. They tower over their friends. We never get hand-me-downs because they’re bigger than the hand-me-downers. And everyone assumes they’re years older than they really are. This can be very embarrassing during public tantrums.

So it comes as a shock to remember that my children are still small in the adult world. I have to lift them up to peer over counter tops. They need step stools to brush their teeth. And – for a while at least – they can’t reach the chocolate I’ve hidden on the top shelf of my pantry.

Want to appreciate a child’s view of the world? Try these books on for size.

Tall, by Jez Alborough. For very young children, this book tells an entire, adorable story with the words “tall” and “small.” Bobo, a baby chimpanzee, feels “small” surrounded by the jungle. So he climbs on a rock. “Tall,” he says, happily. But then his taller friend, the chameleon, strolls up. “Small,” Bobo says sadly, until his friend lifts him onto his shoulders. “Tall,” again! The pattern repeats with a baby lion, an elephant, and a giraffe, each one lifting Bobo higher and higher, until – oh no! He falls off the giraffe’s head. Luckily, Bobo’s mother comes running, and as she catches and hugs him, he discovers that being small isn’t so bad after all.

Big and Little, by John Stadler. A mouse ringleader urges his elephant assistant, Ellie, to jump from a diving board into a glass of water. As Ellie climbs the ladder, the ingenious fold-out pages shift back and forth between the mouse and the increasingly nervous elephant. The tension builds slowly, page by page, as the mouse says, “I can’t watch! Careful!” and Ellie loses her balance. At last, with a “splash!” the elephant hits the water, leaving kids – and adults – wondering how it was possible. Only the last pages reveal the size-bending truth: Ellie is a tiny elephant, barely as tall as the mouse’s knee.

George Shrinks, by William Joyce. One day, George wakes up small. His parents, gone for the day, have left him with a list of chores. George explores all the good and bad things about his new size — from the fun of riding in a toy airplane to the danger of being eaten by a cat. He even gets to take care of his now much-bigger little brother. George’s struggles with making his (enormous) bed and washing his (gigantic) dishes might remind parents just how overwhelming the world can be to a child. The illustrations are charmingly retro, with fifties-style clothes, cars, and toys.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.


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