Reviews for Big

by Vashti Harrison

Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

As Harrison writes in her author's note, "In childhood, big is good. Big is impressive, aspirational. But somewhere along the way, the world begins to tell us something different: That big is bad. That being big is undesirable." Words matter, as a beautiful little Black girl learns. The girl, a dancer who wears a leotard and tutu throughout the book, "grew and learned and laughed...and grew and grew and grew. And it was good...until it wasn't." When she accidentally gets stuck in the baby swing on the school playground, her classmates and even her teacher hurl hurtful words and laughter, which begin to affect the youngster's self-esteem and self-perception. The text is spare but pointed; Harrison's emotionally powerful, pink-hued illustrations focus on her protagonist's inner experience. The girl looks like a giant in school and at dance class, "exposed, judged, yet invisible." The openness of the illustrations gives way to more cramped and overwhelming compositions as the girl, now in blue-gray, feels increasingly hemmed in by others' judgments -- a visible statement about the impact of fatphobia and the adultification of Black children. This girl's story ends triumphantly; she takes her teacher's and classmates' hateful words and hands them back, saying, "These are yours. They hurt me." This book offers readers an opportunity to remember that we all deserve love and respect -- no matter what size we are. (c) Copyright 2023. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A young Black girl who is told she is too big learns which labels to keep. When she was a baby, being a “big girl” was good. But at a certain point, getting bigger becomes tinged with negativity. Adults are frustrated with the girl because of her size. Other children tease her. On the playground and in ballet, where she used to feel joyous and free, the girl is humiliated. On wordless spreads, all alone, the girl fills the tightly constricted pages, as if trapped by their borders. She lets her feelings out in tears that form a puddle of words—the criticisms of others as well as more positive ones: imaginative, creative, compassionate. Finally, she is able to see clearly, and she decides “to make more space for herself” by pushing the boundaries of the page in a powerful fold-out spread. After that, she knows how to separate the words that do and don’t belong to her and what to do with them. Textured illustrations in a soft, predominantly pink palette endear the protagonist to readers, while spare, carefully crafted text delivers an important message of self-acceptance and combating anti-fat bias that never feels preachy or overdone. Bestselling creator Harrison has produced another classic that belongs on every child’s shelf—this is one that will nurture little ones and help them to see the beauty in themselves. A healing balm with the power to make the world a bit kinder. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-9) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This ode to big self-love from Harrison (Sulwe) begins with a smiling, brown-skinned baby girl who has “a big laugh and a big heart/ and very big dreams.” Through a series of emotionally centered, affectionate digital images set against dreamy chalk pastel backdrops, this smiling, bouncing baby becomes a child who “learned and laughed and dreamed and grew and grew and grew. And it was good... until it wasn’t.” The dancing, playful child becomes the subject of cruel playground taunts when she gets stuck in a swing, and receives criticism from a teacher that “made her feel small.” Overwhelmed by others’ derision, the girl runs away from a dance rehearsal in which she’s made to wear plain colors and embody a mountain instead of a flower. A moving several-spread sequence, which includes a gatefold, portrays the overwhelmed child as increasingly cramped within the pages—and others’ judgments—before she gives the words back (“These are yours./ They hurt me”) and makes room for everything she loves (“I like the way I am”). Full of important truths about adultification and anti-fat bias, Harrison’s deceptively simple telling tenderly offers the self-affirming beliefs that kids are kids in any body and that it’s okay to take up space. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. Agent: Carrie Hannigan, HG Literary. (May)