December 18, 2018

I Am Small

Written and illustrated by Qin Leng
Kids Can Press
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2018 

Her name is Mimi but "I might as well be called Mini" because she is small. Of course it's all relative, as Mimi soon discovers, but still she knows that she is smaller than the rest of her family, even the dog, and her classmates and knows what a disadvantage she is at in the classroom and at the bakery, the butcher shop, the fish market and on the street.
When will I grow big enough to take up as much space in the world as everyone else?
From I Am Small by Qin Leng
But, it's all about perspective. Her friends and family recognize the advantages of being small: getting to sit in the front row of the class photo; staying well hidden during a game of hide-and-seek; and preferential placement when queuing up in the cafeteria.
From I Am Small by Qin Leng
But little Mimi only feels the frustration. That is, until she starts to see from a different point of view: snuggling inside her parents' bed, pretending the bathtub is her pool, and riding the dog as a knight's steed.  Then, when Mimi is introduced to her new baby brother, she realizes that he is "super small" now that she's a big sister.
From I Am Small by Qin Leng
Though most families wouldn't trade those moments when children are very small for anything, it is the way of the world for children and young people to want to be bigger and more grown up.  It's the grass-is-always-greener syndrome, which sadly even adults tend to adopt. Whether author/illustrator Qin Leng was, as a child, smaller than her peers or now that she's a mother she is anticipating the lament of most children who always feel small and insignificant, I don't know. But I do know that Qin Leng can portray that angst sweetly in words and illustration. With the airiness typical of her artwork, Qin Leng brings the reader down to Mimi's perspective, even when we're seeing it from above.

Maybe everyone around her thinks her smallness is not a big deal but, to Mimi, it definitely is. Minimizing her feelings would not be appropriate so Qin Leng finds the only way to show Mimi that she is more than just small of stature. She is big in heart and importance, especially to a new baby brother who will need to rely on his big sister to help him find his own place in the world.
A French-language edition Je suis petite (Comme des Géants, 2018) is also available.

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