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.
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.
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:
· 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: