I AM SMALL
Reviewed by Maryleah Otto
Reviewed by Maryleah Otto
Volume 22 Number 5
Sheree Fitch, winner of a Queen's Fellowship (1987), the Atlantic Booksellers' Choice Award (1990) and the prestigious Mr. Christie's Book Award (1993), takes a depar-ture from the rollicking, mirthful rhymes of her earlier work to create a quiet, thoughtful collection of prose poems about the world as seen through a pre-schooler's eyes. What sets Fitch's work well above that of many writers who try to get inside the mind of a four-year-old is that Fitch convinces us that she has really done just that. For example, no one over the age of eight would say
"I talk to God, whoever God is,
Small, the speaker of the collection, is a little blonde girl of roughly Kindergarten age. Her best friend is Amanda, whose house "smells like spaghetti," and her other friend, Mimi, is one whom only Small can see. Mimi "comes to tea," "talks too much" and "wears a hat of straw and flowers." Grandpa's voice is "like thistles" and "his tummy is play dough."
When Small goes shopping with her mother she must always look up, for she is walking "through a jungle of legs: of shins and knee-caps and thighs and hips." (I doubt if a pre-schooler would use the word "thighs.") Small wonders how come she was put in her mother's belly "and not a mother who lives in Africa" and if she'd still be who she is if she had a different family. In her dreams she can "fly and swoop and glide, then swish back down and squeeze into hiding places like shopping bags and kitchen drawers." Her pajamas "smell of soap and sky" and her "pillow is cool." These expressions are pure childhood and pure delight to read.
Kim LaFave, who has illustrated more than ten children's books and who won the Governor General's Award as well as the Ruth Schwartz Award for Amos's Sweater (Groundwood Books/Douglas & Mclntyre, 1988), has filled all thirty-two pages with softly coloured paintings in a casually realistic style that expresses Small's character and thoughts perfectly. I was a bit sorry, though, to see a somewhat stereotypical grandmother. Surely today's grannies are not mostly plump, white-haired, bespectacled and busy rolling out pastry!
I Am Small is sure to be a big hit with real-life Smalls and with those of us who are still able to recapture, if only fleetingly, the sense of wonder we knew when we too were pondering the mystery of our identity as only a four-year-old can.
Highly recommended poetic prose for ages 3 to 6. A perfect bedtime story.
Maryleah Otto is an author and retired children's librarian in St. Thomas, Ontario.
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