CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 30. . . .April 4, 2014
This Stinson/Bell board book collaboration is the third iteration of Big or Little?. The book bearing that title first appeared in 1983, as part of the “Annick Toddler” series, with Stinson’s original text being illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis. After 25 years of being in print in its original form, a new version of Big or Little? appeared in 2009 with a significantly revised text and entirely new illustrations by Toni Goffe.
In my review of the Stinson/Goffe version, I had noted that details within the 2009 text, as well as Goffe’s new illustrations, had made the central character, renamed Toby, seem older than the original Matthew. The Stinson/Bell Big or Little? significantly reverses the feature character’s aging process, and Bell’s cartoon-like illustrations clearly portray a toddler who is almost always accompanied in the double-page spreads by a pink stuffed animal and a pet cat. Stinson’s new text also reverts to “younger” examples of feeling big or little. Unlike the earlier two versions, this book’s central character seems to be an only child and is nameless. The lack of a gender identifying name, coupled with Bell’s androgynous rendering of the central character’s facial features, hair style and clothing, make it impossible to say with certainty that the child is a boy or a girl, thereby extending the book’s audience to both genders.
In all three versions of Big or Little?, Stinson has maintained the theme to which so many preschoolers (or teens or adults) can relate: those moments in life when they feel “big”or grownup and those times when circumstances make them feel “little” or babyish. And each book also contains the concluding idea that, while it is desirable to want to attain the goal of being “big”, there are times when being “little” actually conveys some benefits.
This board book version of Big or Little? is a definite must-buy for the toddler crowd, and it’s also a most worthy purchase for those libraries that already own one or both of the earlier versions.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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