You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
OH. MY. What a tiny world. Although I don’t personally know first-time kiddie book author Anna Kang, I could definitely recite and/or impersonate (badly) parts of her graduate thesis film, not black or white, on command as I’ve used it some 148 times in classrooms over the last decade-plus. How gleefully delighted am I now to have her book on my shelves …
Kang’s not black or white was all about perspective – that is, irreverently confronting and debunking stereotypes of Asian women in the media. Perspective again takes center stage in You Are (Not) Small, using cuddly Fozzie Bear-like creatures of various statures as engagingly envisioned by New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant (who happens to be Kang’s creative and life partner both).
“You are small,” the russet fuzzie says to the shorter. “I am not small. You are big,” hyacinth fuzzie quips back. But as russet fuzzie points out, gesturing behind him, he is one of numerous similarly-sized fuzzies. Hyacinth fuzz has a similar response, as he leads a gathering of his own. The exchange escalates until a pair of hairy sage legs interrupts with a thunderous “boom,” followed by numerous xanthic-scarved pink fuzzies floating down in matching parachutes. Suddenly, easy labels are moot. Who’s big, who’s small; who’s tall, who’s short; who’s right, who’s wrong … it’s all about comparative perspective.
As adorable as each of the pink, hyacinth, russet, sage fuzzies are, this creative duo’s debut effort is not without teachable, serious undertones. The middle double-page spread with capitalized, angrily-bolded, screaming type marking one side against the other is clearly a warning against peer pressure, groupthink, polarization – all by-products of narrowing perspectives, emboldened by like-minded, contagious company. Two seemingly inconsequential words – small, big – become fodder for all-out tantrums here. Parents can easily extrapolate tantrums to … say … elections? war? Uhhh, what were we saying about perspective? Clearly, we all need this book.
One final comment: that title, by the way, is THE most ingenious use of parentheses I’ve ever, ever seen on the page!