July 04, 2019

Little Juniper Makes It Big

Written and illustrated by Aidan Cassie
Farrar Straus Giroux
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
July 2019

Juniper is a little raccoon and she's tired of being so little. She sees the disadvantages of being small in a world made by adults for adults. Everything seems to be too high for her to reach, whether it be the sink, the door knob or an elusive jar of cookies. Even when she puts her engineering skills to work, with springboards and stilts, hoppers and heighteners, and cranes and catapults and balloons, "Juniper's efforts fell short.
From Little Juniper Makes It Big by Aidan Cassie
At school, Juniper realizes that she is actually of average size and even far larger than new student Clove whose size does not hinder her efforts at all. When Clove invites Juniper to her home, the raccoon anticipates lessons in "un-smallness" but she is pleasantly surprised to learn that, at "Clove's home, Juniper was adult-size."
From Little Juniper Makes It Big by Aidan Cassie
Still, it's that grass-is-always-greener scenario because Juniper soon recognizes that she can't enjoy fun activities like swinging, playing dress-up, bouncing on the bed and even playing hide-and-seek when she's far larger than Clove. Nevertheless, Juniper's sleepover at Clove's helps her recognize how her own home was "very, nearly, almost perfect!"
From Little Juniper Makes It Big by Aidan Cassie
Children are always in such a hurry to get bigger, older, taller and have more responsibilities, and the storytelling in Little Juniper Makes It Big suggests, without admonishing, that it's perfectly normal to see another world as more desirable. However, Juniper finally gets the message with the help of the even smaller Clove, whose optimism and determination abound, that her world is perfect for her right now.

Aidan Cassie, whose first picture book, Sterling, Best Dog Ever (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018) won the 2019 Joan Betty Stuchner–Oy Vey!–Funniest Children's Book Award in the picture book/board book category, again blends the humour of childhood innocence and the determination to be more, or at least our very best. Juniper sees her world as limiting because of her size but, with a change in perspective, courtesy of a tiny squirrel with a voluminous personality and oodles of spirit, Juniper is able to appreciate her home and life in new ways. That's a very positive message, heightened with the humour and charm of Aidan Cassie's illustrations. I was won over by her artwork in Sterling, Best Dog Ever and Little Juniper Makes It Big introduces us to a new gang of cartoon animals in engrossing settings. (Check out the cottage-like setting of the bathroom below.) Her characters have joy and frustration amidst the normalcy of family, home, and school and even little humans will be able to identify with them.  By creating empathy for cute animals who are experiencing what our own children may also be encountering, Aidan Cassie has found a way to teach, delight, reassure and entertain our youngest who just want to make it big too.

From Little Juniper Makes It Big by Aidan Cassie

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