Revenge of the small Small

By Jean Little

Bullying is a hot topic right now, and when I found this book buried in my sister’s closet (I love snooping in there), I thought the timing was very fortuitous. After all, it’s the chance to discuss something relevant! Something fresh! Something published in 1992!

Okay, so maybe it’s a little old. But some topics never go out of style!

Revenge of the small Small focuses Patsy small, youngest of four children. She is, like all youngest sisters, perfect in every way. When her three older siblings get the chicken pox, she makes out like Florence Nightingale, catering to their every whim and need. But, when the tables are turned, they laugh at her requests and leave her all alone.

Dad to the rescue! He brings Patsy home a truly ginormous (that’s a word, right?) box of craft supplies. Seriously, this box is something those whackadoodles from Craft Wars would kill for. While the other three hover around, anxious to share, Patsy shuts them down and keeps all the supplies to herself. As any kid would do.

And so Patsy starts on her project (honestly, I think she has the longest bout of chicken pox in the history of books). She starts building a town, full of streets, houses, schools, and… a cemetery? Yes, really. A cemetery. With her three siblings buried inside, all with “awful” epithets.

No, really. “A bad brother”. “A mean sister”. “A lowly boy”. I wish I had a scanner to show you the Home Alone face the second brother is making at his tombstone. All three are shocked, SHOCKED  that their perfect, angelic, meek little sister could write such atrocities about them. So, as you do, they immediately change overnight into the most perfect, wonderful, supporting, loving, caring, attentive siblings on the planet.

I know this book is meant for kids. I do. And bullying is hard to write about. But this was the best the author could come up with? Two brothers and a sister who act, well, like older brothers and sisters. Heck, they were nicer to Patsy with all their teasing than I ever was to my sister, and she turned out okay!

(Hey, wait… this book was in her closet, wasn’t it? Hey! What’s this little effigy?)

Revenge of the small Small is pretty weak in story. The siblings, while made out to be the utmost villains in Patsy’s mind, are actually pretty lifelike. They’re mean, but trying to be helpful in their own ways. Even Patsy’s reaction of brushing them aside for her revenge is accurate to what any child would do. But the teasing she goes through is pretty weak (she reacts to being called an infant the same way she would if someone told her ol’ Yeller was shot at the end of the book). She receives obvious favoritism from her father, and never once do their parents step in to stop the teasing.

Despite the failings, this was one of my favorite books (for different reasons than my sister, who was obviously using it as inspiration). The artwork is amazing – my hat off to you, Janet Wilson. The characters are well drawn, the items are well drawn, and the town Patsy makes looks like something a child would actually draw. It makes me so sad that such amazing artwork is attached to such a weak story. It wouldn’t even be so bad if there was a better means of changing the other’s minds, but really. If this was real life (and most of the book is faaaairly realistic), the siblings would just destroy the headstones, or retaliate with more snarky comments. They’re kids!

If you have a younger daughter being the victim of sibling bullying, you could pick up this book to entertain her with. But I’m pretty sure there are better ones out there. Find those ones, or pick this up for the art.

Suggested ages: 3-6

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

By Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter is somewhat of a legend among children’s authors. She writes these incredible little stories featuring different animals. Living in the country, Beatrix was inspired by her own animals and surroundings, and it shows in both her writing and artwork.

Her first, and most well-known work, is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This is one of those beloved tales that will live on eternally; who doesn’t know about Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail? (And Peter, naturally). It’s such a wonderfully whimsical story, full of relatable and realistic characters.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the, naturally, the tale of Peter Rabbit. Sent out to play while his mother goes shopping, Peter leaves his three good sisters to gather blackberries on the lane while he goes to munch on vegetables from Farmer McGregor’s garden. Eschewing the rules, he gets lost inside the garden, then spotted by the villainous farmer. Fleeing, Peter must hide from the farmer and get out without getting caught.

Peter is a very naughty rabbit; he disobeys his mother, is terribly frightened, nearly captured and killed, and loses all his neat little clothes. Little boys take note! Don’t disobey your mothers, or enraged farmers might chase you down too. (Though, I admit, if my son snuck away to eat vegetables from a farm, I would be a very happy mother indeed.) I love how believable little Peter Rabbit is; he’s defiant and uncaring at first, then scared, almost gives up until encouraged, then runs the gamut of terror and tears. More children need to cry in stories when things get scary – I don’t think it happens enough. But it’s a true representation of what you would do.

I love this story. When you think of Beatrix Potter, this is the story you think of. First published in 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was the first of her many, many stories. And there are a lot of them; I was given The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter by my grandparents in 1989, and I still don’t think I’ve read all the stories therein contained (23 of them). Some of them are classics, other’s I could never get engaged in. Some are quite dark, but that was Beatrix’s style, and it works very well.

She was an observant lady, watching the movements of animals, developing a very unique and beautiful style of art. I admit, I love the art more than the story, and she uses it in a unique way. Rather then full-page illustrations, her stories are decorated with small pictures, sometimes three to a page, each next to a paragraph to illustrate that particular happening. Sometimes I wonder if she wrote or drew her stories first; they fit together perfectly.

If you don’t own this story, go pick it up. I often say that a book that’s still in print 20 years after first being published is a good book; this tale is still around 110 years later! If that doesn’t say something about Ms. Potter, nothing will.

Suggested Ages: 5-9

The Magic School Bus: Inside a Hurricane

By Joanna Cole

“Seatbelts, kids!”

I have always loved The Magic School Bus. And, odd as this will sound, I don’t recall catching the t.v. show very often. No, what I got hooked on were the books and the video games. I wish those games still worked, but they’re from 1995-98-ish era, so most PCs won’t run anything that old. But man were they ever fun for my sister and I to play!

But my first Magic School Bus love was always the books. I would go to the library, scoop up as many as I could, and read them for hours. I think kids have the best educational books, and the Magic School Bus ranks up there with the best of them. Inside a Hurricane is just what it sounds like: Ms. Frizzle takes her class into the science and terror of extreme weather.

Now, The Magic School Bus will never be known for stellar writing. The story is told in a journal-entry type of way, detailing what the class is doing. Meanwhile, the dialogue is told through speech bubbles, and extra science is offered through student reports that are set to the side. Not to mention the details in the art! That’s a lot going on in just a few pages.

While there is a lot going on, it’s not overwhelming. Everything is written simply, with diagrams to help transmit the information. The science is balanced by the humour of the character interactions, which helps the books from being dry and gives them their traditional feel.

We need more books like this; little science books designed for kids that offers some laughs. I don’t mean Eyewitness books (though I love those too), but books that are designed to make them want to keep reading. The Magic School Bus did that for me, kicking off an obsession with the solar system that lasted for a year or two. Thank you, Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus!

Suggested Ages: 6-9

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