Big and Little by John Stadler has an appealing, old-fashioned cover that makes it clear (especially through the font used for "Big") that this is a book about the circus. The reader is welcomed into the story on the inside front cover (no dust jacket, no front material): "Welcome. Welcome. It's a really BIG show." On each page spread, the right-hand page flips out, to reveal another hidden page spread inside. The outer pages (before you flip out the inner page) feature a mouse wearing a blue suit, the emcee of the show. The inside pages feature Ellie, a pink elephant in a tutu.
There are only a few words on each page, and the story is quite simple, as Ellie the elephant climbs a high, precarious ladder and prepares to jump into a glass of water, while the mouse emcee directs the show from below. On my first read-through, I thought that the story was overly simplistic. However, the ending confounds expectations, and is certain to delight young children. I haven't tested it out first hand, but I envision belly laughs. Reading through the book again, I realized how cleverly the author had set the reader up for the surprise at the end.
The illustrations are spare, yet pleasing. My favorite is one of Ellie, part way up the ladder, radiating nervousness from the wrinkles in her wrists and knees. She's a very feminine elephant, with dainty finger and toe-nails, and long eyelashes, sure to be a hit with young girls. Boys may prefer the solemn mouse, who hides his eyes when Ellie gets to the top of the ladder.
I think that Big and Little will be a fun read-aloud for two-year-olds, who don't have the patience for many words or complex pictures, and who will have fun lifting the flaps. Big and Little could also be an approachable early reader for kids. It features a limited vocabulary, yet offers the fun of going back to explore how the author handled the surprise twist. I recommend Big and Little for any preschooler's personal library.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.