Saturday, October 14, 2006
This review comes from a feature on "small" books from the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast:
When You Were Small by Sara O’Leary is a bit different from the previous two. It starts out with a standard picture book premise: Henry always asks his father the same question at bedtime: “Tell me about when I was small.” But, rather than the expected description of a typical babyhood, the reader is then treated to a series of (ahem, pardon me) tall-tale one-liners about a 3-inch-tall mini-boy. My favorite: “When you were small your mother once lost you in the bottom of her purse. When she found you again, you were clinging to an earring she’d lost three years before.” The deadpan text is perfectly countered by sweetly whimsical illustrations by Julie Morstad, in a crosshatching-and-watercolor style that’s kind of like a non-sardonic Edward Gorey. There’s a lot of appeal here: pure silliness that will certainly invoke belly-laughs when read aloud, plus there’s the Borrowers/Littles/etc. phenomenon - that fascination with characters that are so small they can use ordinary objects in completely unintended ways. For example, Henry uses a ruler for a toboggan and his father’s slipper for a bed. And there’s a curious validation in that, too, I think – even the impossibly-small can manage in a too-big world, and Henry always looks like he’s having a pretty good time.
I discovered When You Were Small by in a very roundabout way – I was trying to find out more about Julie Morstad after (thanks to Julie!) I saw the animated “Maybe Sparrow” video (hauntingly lovely) and the Fox Confessor Brings the Flood CD cover art (spooky, surreal) she created for Neko Case. Sadly, when I tried to get a copy for my library, I was told that the publisher is “out of stock indefinitely.” So, if you run across this one in a bookstore or something, grab it! You may not get another chance!