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I have to admit, I don’t often come across a book that catches my interest the way that BIG, written by Coleen Paratore, illustrated by Clare Fennell, and published by Little Pickle Press, did. See, I have a son, Patrick. And Patrick’s BIG.

He wasn’t always that way—up until he was four months old he wore layette-size clothing. And then we went to Hawaii for six weeks, and when we came home he’d blown right through all the baby sizes to 18-months, had four teeth, and was crawling.

He never looked back. By the time he was two he was so far off the charts the doctors stopped mapping his growth. In kindergarten he had to sit at a third-grade desk because he was too big for the kindergarten tables. In elementary school sometimes I’d drive by the playground and spot him by the monkey bars, hunched over, trying to look like the other kids. Anyone who tells you that size doesn’t matter to kids is lying.

By fifth grade he was taller than his teachers. Fortunately for us, those teachers did  something for my son that BIG does for young children today—they taught him that size has its advantages—and that it’s far more than just a physical thing. His homeroom teacher encouraged my son to take up the tuba “because it takes a big, strong, kid to carry it in the marching band.” He also suggested that Patrick go out for sports like football and basketball, where being big is an enormous asset (forgive the pun).

Patrick’s math teacher saw that what previous teachers had interpreted as an unwillingness to follow “the rules” was in fact an indication that Patrick’s brain simply processes things in its own way. Like much of my family, his brain seems to function bilaterally–he is both intensely creative, and intensely analytical. “I like to have Patrick work the math problems on the board,” his math teacher said. “He comes at them from an angle I’ve never seen before—and some of my students can understand it better the way he does it. It gives everybody another way of understanding the concepts.”

Those teachers worked with school staff (and me) to help Patrick become big in other, even more important ways. Though he was offered the opportunity to move into advanced placement classes, we chose instead to keep him in the classroom with his friends and those wonderful teachers—and put him to work as an assistant to the PE teacher.  Each day, he spent some time out on the playground teaching kindergarteners through fourth-graders how to catch, leading exercises—and learning about how discipline, patience, and kindness go a long way toward a new, better kind of bigness.

Patrick is almost sixteen now, 6’5”, a lineman on the football team (that’s him up above–#77), and a wonderful tuba player (he’s just been accepted into the youth symphony). And when we go out little kids all over town run up to him to say, “hi.” Because of this small town, and particularly because of his fifth-grade teachers, my son is big in ways that Paratore and Fennell understand.

Again, #77 is the boy we watch here. Imagine facing that over a small, pointed ball!

For children, size matters. It matters a lot. BIG does for young readers what my son’s fifth-grade teachers did for him—they provide children another way of understanding something that’s central to life—that physical size is only one way of being big.

And if you, Gentle Readers (or Savage Readers–we’re equal-opportunity around here, what with the Magic Dog’s penchant for biting UPS men, gas men, Fed-ex men, mail men, cops, and random strangers) would like to read more about BIG, Little Pickle Press, and the nice people who make these things possible, you can download lesson plans at the Little Pickle Press website here. Click here for the BIG lesson plan. And of course you’ll want to buy a copy of this beautiful book, or download a Kindle version of the book by clicking here.

Size matters. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. This illustration (like the kids above) are some of Clare Fennell’s charming artwork for BIG.

BIG is printed on recycled papers with soy inks in North America (since the folks at Little Pickle Press are all Big People and Understand About Saving Our Planet).  For more of the story behind the story in BIG continue the book tour tomorrow–here’s a full set of the blog stops:

Tour Stops 2012

·  9/19 Brit Mum

·  9/20 Spoiled Yoga

· 9/21 Capability Mom

Here’s a quick reference list of helpful links for BIG, and for Little Pickle Press:

Picture Book

Kindle e-book

Video trailer

Little Pickle Press website

Little Pickle Press blog

Little Pickle Press on Facebook

Little Pickle Press on Twitter

Little Pickle Press on Pinterest

BIG Lesson Plan Only

Free lesson plans

LPP Blog Book Tour Schedule

Read Full Post »


BIG, from Little Pickle Press, is available at the press website (http://littlepicklepress.com) and on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle versions. This is excellent news if you have a Kindle Fire (and I do).

As all of you with even a nodding acquaintance with my blog know, we’re big people around here. There’s the House Leroy, of course, whose nickname is “Big.” There’s The Boy, who is 6’4″. There were my uncles, all over six feet. And now there are my nephews–6’4″ and 6’8″–who by chance are visiting and cooking for me. Since they’re marvelous cooks, that explains why we’re big in other ways, too). We know big. We do it well.

Which is why I was particularly pleased to run across BIG, a new Little Pickle Press book written by written Coleen Paratore and illustrated by Clare Fennell. BIG that takes the idea of bigness–something about which I thought I knew just about everything there is to know–and expands it in intriguing, and thought-provoking, ways. I was even more pleased to score Clare Fennell’s email address, and have the chance to chat with her a little bit about her work style.

Being big is a subject that’s central to the lives of many children. You’re a mom. Is it something that comes up a lot at your house?
Being big is a massive issue in our house; my younger girl is quite small for her age (she was born prematurely) and other children often refer to her as “little.” She hates it and insists she’s a ‘BIG’ girl. And she is! She also hates it when her older sister gets to do stuff that she can’t, like staying up late, sleepovers or being able to ride her bike without stabilisers (training wheels) etc.

I notice that a lot of these illustrations include measuring tools–rulers, drafting paper, and so forth. Was this intentional? And if so, can you expand on that a bit? In a book that basically defines bigness in terms that have nothing to do with physical measurements, what role do those measuring tool textures fill?
Hmm, I guess you can look at them as literal measuring tools. I particularly like textures like text books, graph paper and newspapers, and use them a lot. The more textures the better!

I think we wanted to use them here to show how being “BIG” isn’t necessarily a size thing right at the beginning of the book, even though that’s what people think. Then I liked the theme running through the book.

Speaking of textures: How do you get your collage textures? I see painted paper, printed paper (the drafting paper), and paper textures that involve words and various images. Do you create those textures as well, or do you seek out already-printed paper textures for your work? And if so, where do you like to look?

I think the answer is where don’t I look! I am constantly looking and collecting stuff. I have three boxes labeled “Patterns, Textures, Colours” to keep them all in, and a cupboard full of fabrics. I love going to haberdashery departments and vintage clothing stalls! I go through all magazines before they are recycled and rip out anything I can use–be it a nice area of colour, water texture, skin texture–anything!

I also do a lot of painting colours on brown parcel paper (I like the texture it produces) and on old newspaper. I’ve used old bits of clothing–I’ve also photographed some of my old stuffed toys (for the pattern) and photographed my furniture for wood textures, photographed rocks, plants etc.

How did you find Little Pickle Press? (Or, how did they find you?)
They found me! It was so lovely to be approached like that. I think they saw my work on Children’s Illustrators.com and then on my blog. They liked the mixed media feel of my work. Hooray!!

Your work looks very traditional. How does PhotoShop factor in? Do you collage your work there, or do you develop images, print them out, and then integrate them into your collages?

Well, I don’t have any hard and fast rules, I’m always experimenting. Mainly I collage and paint the individual bits by hand on paper. For BIG, I made all the  characters first, then scanned them in and used Photoshop to finish the collage electronically. Finally I added background textures,  shadows, and so forth, also in Photoshop.

I love collage because it gives me the flexibility to change and move things around. Photoshop is just an extension of this for me. Sometimes I create a pattern in Photoshop, print it out, and then collage it, but not often.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

When I was eighteen I wrote to Quentin Blake (it was pen and paper in those days) And he replied!!

He sent me loads of press clippings because I was doing an essay about him (no internet!) His work has always inspired me, even though it’s completely different to mine. I have always enjoyed how much movement and character he can bring to his images.

I trained in illustration at university. After I graduated I continued buying children’s books because I loved them. I stumbled into greetings card work after graduating and ended up staying there. It was an amazing grounding into art and design on a professional level, but my heart has always been in children’s books. I just didn’t have the confidence…

After I had our girls, I spent hours reading lovely children’s books with them … wishing. One day a very good friend of mine said, “Just try it; what have you got to lose?” So I dusted off my sketchbook and started! I guess it shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. It’s the best job in the world, AND I get to be here with our children after school and in the holidays too. One day I hope to write a children’s  book as well….well, that’s the plan!!

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with us, Clare.

And if you, Gentle Readers (or Savage Readers–we’re equal-opportunity around here, what with the Magic Dog’s penchant for biting UPS men, gas men, Fed-ex men, mail men, cops, and random strangers) would like to read more about BIG, Little Pickle Press, and the nice people who make these things possible, you can download lesson plans at the Little Pickle Press website here. Click here for the BIG lesson plan. And of course you’ll want to buy a copy of this beautiful book, or download a Kindle version of the book by clicking here.

BIG is printed on recycled papers with soy inks in North America (since the folks at Little Pickle Press are all Big People and Understand About Saving Our Planet).  For more of the story behind the story in BIG continue the book tour tomorrow–here’s a full set of the blog stops:

Tour Stops 2012

·  9/17 Carrots Are Orange

·  9/18 Shonell Bacon

·  9/19 Brit Mum

·  9/20 Spoiled Yoga

· 9/21 Capability Mom

Here’s a quick reference list of helpful links for BIG, and for Little Pickle Press:

Picture Book

Kindle e-book

Video trailer

Little Pickle Press website

Little Pickle Press blog

Little Pickle Press on Facebook

Little Pickle Press on Twitter

Little Pickle Press on Pinterest

BIG Lesson Plan Only

Free lesson plans

LPP Blog Book Tour Schedule

Read Full Post »

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