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Size Matters

By Kristi Jemtegaard

Children are often aware of size without really understanding the concept or its significance. Learning that some things are naturally big and others small can help children see how they fit into the landscape of the world. Learning that size is only one measure of importance helps children see their own strength in a big and sometimes overwhelming world.

Superdog: The Heart of a Hero
Ages: Pre-School
By Caralyn Buehner    Illustrated by Mark Buehner
Harper Collins, 2004, $15.99 (Hardcover)

No doubt about it: Dexter the dog was stubby…“a plump sausage sitting on four little meatballs.” But with a little determination, a lot of heart, and a flashy green cape, Dex proves that being a hero has nothing to do with size. Slick cartoon-style illustrations explode with action and humor.

Someone Bigger
Ages: Pre-School
By Jonathan Emmett    Illustrated by Adrian Reynolds
Clarion, 2003, $16.00 (Hardcover)

A young lad, convinced that he is big enough to hold onto a huge kite, is told repeatedly “This kite needs someone bigger.” When Dad is swept away however, a whole string of helpers (“a postman with a sack of mail, a bank robber, escaped from jail…”) not to mention the inhabitants of the local zoo are unable to bring him down. Who succeeds? The smallest one of all, of course, proving once again that heart not heft is what counts.

A Pig Is BigA Pig is Big
Ages: Pre-School - Grade 1
By Douglas Florian
Greenwillow, 2000, $15.99 (Hardcover)

“What’s bigger than a pig?” Why…a cow, and a car, and a truck…and so on all the way up to the vast blue sweep of the universe. In cleverly rhymed verse paired with jaunty illustrations, poet Douglas Florian puts the world in perspective. In a similar (but wordless) vein, Steve Jenkins’ Looking Down (Houghton Mifflin, 1995) uses gorgeous cut-paper illustrations to zoom young readers down from outer space to the level of a ladybug’s back. Slightly older children will enjoy sketching their room, their house, their street, their town…right on up to pinpointing their location on the globe as they follow the steps in Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney (Crown, 1996).

Owen Foote, Second Grade StrongmanOwen Foote, Second Grade Strongman
Ages: Grades 1 - 3
By Stephanie Greene    Illustrated by Dee DeRosa
Clarion, 1996, $15.00 (Hardcover)

Puny Owen and pudgy Joseph both struggle with their size only to find out that others—including grownups—have issues of their own. The gentle humor in this early chapter book means young readers will laugh and learn at the same time.

Swamp AngelSwamp Angel
Ages: Kindergarten - Grade 3
By Anne Isaacs    Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Dutton, 1994, $16.00 (Hardcover)

This brand spanking new tall tale follows in the footsteps of a mighty American tradition. Born on August 1, 1815, Angelica Longrider was “scarcely taller than her mother and couldn’t climb a tree without help.” From these puny beginnings, she goes on to build a log cabin (at age 2), lift wagon trains out of swamps (at age 12), and lasso a giant bear with a little help from a passing tornado. Zelinsky’s illustrations, richly detailed oils done on cherry, maple and birch veneers, earned this sassy tale a Caldecott Honor award.

Actual Size
Ages: Kindergarten - Grade 3
By Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, $16.00 (Hardcover)

Graphically striking cut-paper illustrations set against clean white backgrounds, create a sense of proportion by showing the tiniest of animals (the 2” long pygmy shrew; the 1/3” long dwarf goby fish) at the same scale as the largest (the 12” eye of a giant squid; the two-foot long tongue of a giant anteater). An appendix at the back supplies additional information about each animal for curious young readers. Preschoolers will enjoy the somewhat simpler presentation of similar information in Jenkins’ Big and Little (Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
Ages: Grade 1 - Grade 2
By Megan McDonald
Candlewick, 2005, $12.99 (Hardcover)

According to Stink, Judy Moody’s younger brother, he’s “probably the shortest human being in the whole world, including Alaska and Hawaii.” And to make matters worse, he’s convinced he’s shrinking. This beginning chapter book, filled with goofy illustrations, makes reassuring fare for young readers worried about making their mark in the world. A hilarious audio version, narrated by Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, (Listening Library, 2005) is also available.

Now I’m Big
Ages: Pre-School - Kindergarten
By Margaret Miller
Greenwillow, 1996

In this celebration of growth and accomplishment, a simple text accompanies crisp, brightly colored photographs depicting six different children as they remember what they did “When I was little” and celebrate what they can do “Now I’m big.”

Hewitt Anderson's Great Big LifeHewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life
Ages: Kindergarten - Grade 3
By Jerdine Nolen    llustrated by Kadir Nelson
Simon & Schuster, 2005

Small enough to sleep in the palm of his father’s hand, Hewitt Anderson is an ordinary child born into a family of giants. Kadir Nelson’s extraordinary illustrations enrich this modern folktale which affirms that “big or small, either is best of all!”

The Little Engine That Could

Ages: Pre-School
By Watty Piper    Illustrated by Loren Long
Philomel, 2005

First published in 1930 (with designs by Lois Lenski), this classic story of a little blue engine’s struggle to pull a stranded train across the mountains (“I think I can—I think I can—I think I can…”) has been refurbished with glorious new pictures which pay homage to the more familiar 1954 edition illustrated by George and Doris Hauman. A timeless message for a whole new generation to enjoy.


About the Author :
Kristi Jemtegaard is the Youth Services Supervisor/Children's Specialist for the Arlington Public Library system in Virginia. She also serves as adjunct faculty in the Education Department of the University of Virginia and has taught at Catholic University in Washington D.C.

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