In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big and little

Dear Aunt Debbie,

We've spent much of the last few days celebrating Isabel's second birthday, and so have had plenty of opportunity to think about questions of aging, looking forward and looking back, as you do in your last post.  Isabel is working through what it means to be growing, not big yet, but not truly small either.  The repeated dialogue:

Isabel: "I'm little."
Me: "Yes, you are."
Isabel (emphatic): "I'm bigger!"

And of course, they're both true.

All this had me thinking about a lovely little book by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, the couple who gave us all those fabulous Greek and Norse myths.

Too Big
is the story of a little boy who wakes up and finds he is too big for his clothes:

He could not get into his little pants because he was
He could not get into his little coat because he was

The little boy is also too big to lift his cat by the tail, ride on his dog (the poor pained dog splays out its legs), or ride the horse.  The happy ending is paradoxical:

"Never mind," said the little boy.
"I'll grow bigger
and bigger
and when I grow up
I will ride on an

Some of the logic in the book escapes me: how exactly can you be too big to lift a cat by the tail, or to ride a horse?  But the conclusion the boy comes to makes a kind of child mind sense.  I'm not little anymore, and I'm getting bigger, so clearly I will be enormous, and end up getting to do things I can't do yet.

The D'Aulaires' illustrations alternate between full-color and black-and-white spreads, each page filled with energy and movement.  It's a charming, short, picture-filled book, and both girls have loved it.  Nice to have a way to talk about a sense of scale.

Love, Annie

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