ONCE I WAS VERY SMALL
Volume 21 Number 5
Early childhood is a very special time in one's life. Young children marvel at themselves in a totally unconscious way while discovering the world around them. Aimed at the pre-school child, this slight book attempts to re-create that sense of wonder, but it misses the mark.
There is no continuity and no consistency in the book. It is often downright confusing. Vanessa introduces herself, saying, "Once I was very small,... Not anymore." First Vanessa shows us photographs of herself; next we see her in illustrations as a baby or pre-schooler. She goes from bed to chair to clothes to food to learning to walk, to Christmas! Is this pre-school stream-of-consciousness? All this time Vanessa is the centre of attention, but on the last page she has a friend. Where did she come from?
There are self-conscious, inappropriate, very adult-like asides in the text, for example: "The snowsuit was my favourite ... it had a life of its own."
First-time author Elizabeth Ferber is a cartoonist and greeting card designer and her art displays a certain cuteness. The illustrations are clean and bright. Carrot-topped Vanessa mugs on every page and is an adorable, but wobbly, toddler.
Ultimately, the book demonstrates no imagination, the key ingredient in a child's view of the world. The text is so pedestrian that it is hardly worth a second read. With books like Kathy Stinson's Red Is Best, which opens with "My mom doesn't understand about red", new authors have a wonderful model not to imitate but to emulate.
Once I Was Very Small is a disappointment.
Theo Hersh is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers
Young Canada Works