________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012


When I Was Small.

Sara O'Leary. Illustrated by Julie Morstad.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books (Distributed by Raincoast Books), 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-897476-38-3.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



When I was small, says his mother, I slept in a mitten.
When I was small, says his mother, the cat once mistook me for one of her kittens.

When I Was Small, the latest title in Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad's series of picture books about inquisitive Henry and his playful parents and their recollections from the past, follows the same format as When You Were Small and Where You Came From. Like its predecessors, this latest book stands alone and can be read in isolation, or in conjunction with the other titles. In When I Was Small, Henry asks his mother to tell him about when she was small. Those who are familiar with the series will know that what follows is a range of wildly creative and humorous episodes from Henry's mother's life (or, more to the point, from her imagination).

internal art      When I Was Small has the same somewhat "old-fashioned," charming design and presentation as its predecessors, including the same sturdy binding, solid hard cover, and thick, durable paper. There is also the same clever simplicity of the text and the illustrations that, in many ways, make an older reader yearn-just as does Henry-for the way things used to be.

      The phrase, "says his mother," is used 12 times in the book. This is obviously a deliberate part of the patterning and predictability of the author's text, but I confess that I found it grating and would have preferred more variety. Other than that personal preference, however, there is little about which to complain.

      The whimsical text and illustrations are in harmony one with the other. Indeed, Morstad's creative illustrations add interesting details that extend the text in a pleasing manner. For instance, when O'Leary writes of having lived in a doll's house, Morstad's artwork includes one bed with a frame made of clothes pegs and another bed frame constructed from pencils. With both text and artwork, the presentation is uncluttered and, with lots of white space, the book is easy on the eye.

      I expect that this book is more likely to initially catch the eye of a parent than a child, but children will enjoy it once it is shared with them. When I Was Small is a particularly nice book over which mothers and sons can bond. Those who purchase a copy of this book will be well pleased and will enjoy returning to it for many years.


Gregory Bryan is a professor at the University of Manitoba where he specializes in literature for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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