Review posted June 19, 2023.
Little, Brown and Company, 2023. 60 pages.
Review written June 13, 2023, from a library book.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Picture Books
This gorgeous picture book successfully symbolizes how people's words can make a kid feel too much, and shows her healing and coming into her own.
The book begins with an adorably chubby brown baby girl.
Once there was a girl
with a big laugh and a big heart
and very big dreams.
The pictures show her growing and learning. And being called a big girl is a good thing.
But she grows as a ballerina, wearing pink like the others, but towering over them. It starts to seem like being a big girl is no longer a good thing.
Then one day, she gets in a swing with a seat, like her friends do, and she gets stuck. Her friends laugh, and when a teacher helps her out, she says, "Don't you think you're too big for that?"
It made her feel small.
The pictures from there show her in many situations looking like a giant, feeling exposed and out of place. On the dance stage, she's too big for the flower costumes, so they have her wear a dark grey costume as a mountain towering above everyone else.
Then a wonderful and moving series of images shows the girl growing as the space she's in (the book's trim size) closes in around her.
She's sad, and even then people in her mind say, "Aren't you too big to be crying?"
But the book does come to a lovely conclusion. The giant girl scoops up the unkind words that are puddled in her tears -- and she gives them back to the people they belong to, saying "These are yours. They hurt me."
Mind you, "Not everyone understood or even listened."
But the girl, wearing pink again, has remembered that she likes the way she is, and she is good.
Now, once again, my description isn't adequate. This is one to check out and hold in your hands and marvel. Most of the message is done through symbolism, which not all picture books can handle -- but this one pulls it off completely. Honestly, this book is already my favorite for Caldecott this year. We'll see....