About the Holiday
Life’s not about how tall you are but about how big your heart is! Today we celebrate people who are 5’4” and under—the petite! There are many advantages to being on the smaller side—it’s easier to fit into tight spaces; airline, train, and other transportation seats are more comfortable; and we can blend into the crowd more easily when we’re having a bad hair day. All-in-all being petite is pretty perfect!
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Written by Justin Roberts | Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Sally McCabe was so small that she was mostly overlooked. “She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” The other kids heard her name called every morning along with theirs, and they passed her in the hall on the way to class, but no one knew that “Sally was paying super extra special attention” to what went on around her. For instance, she noticed the kite someone had lost in the tree and had counted twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring. She watched as the leaves turned “green to gold in the fall” and when “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.”
She saw wildflowers turn their face toward the sun and “was there when the stray cats who normally fought / conducted a meeting in the church parking lot.” On the playground she saw Kevin McKuen get shoved down the slide and knew of the “tears that he wanted to hide.” On Parent-Teacher day, too, she watched kids pulled down the hall by parents upset at what they had heard. But during all this, no one happened to see Sally watching or knew what that could mean.
Sally understood that these slights, mean words, and cruel actions kept building and building without any stop, and she finally decided that something must change. So one day during lunch she stepped out of line, stuck her hand in the air, and announced very loud, “‘I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. / Stop hurting each other! This is enough!’”
Some kids just giggled and ignored what she’d said, but many others joined in with their hands in the air. “Like waves rolling in, one after another— / first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. / It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, / who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.” And they all felt connected “like the janitor’s keys. Fastened together with a heavy steel ring / that held all the secrets to unlock everything.”
After that day, things went back to normal—but with much welcomed kindness in small doses and places. Spaces were made for strangers to sit, doors held wide open, and many such “moments that get taken for granted—a wildflower appearing that no one had planted.” And so the world changed for this school and this town all because Sally was courageous and kind and paying attention.
Justin Roberts’ rhyming tribute to the empathy and bravery of one little girl who takes notice and makes a difference shows kids and adults that anyone can create change no matter who they are. Readers of all ages will recognize the hurts that Roberts chooses to include, good examples of the small and large acts that cause physical and emotional pain. The infectious rhythm and the inspirations of kindness—from the alley cats’ truce to wildflowers to keys (objects that at once have familiarity and deeper meanings)—give the book resonance far beyond the immediate reading.
Christian Robinson’s bright, wide-lens drawings of Sally’s schoolroom, cafeteria, and playground give young readers the same view Sally has, allowing them to also find the examples of arguing, pushing, whispering, and other slights that she reacts to. An illustration of Sally and her classmates sitting at their desks shows exactly how small she is in comparison to the other children; the rest of the pages demonstrate just how big her heart is. Each page offers opportunities for kids and adults to discuss the problems of bullying and options for how they can make a difference.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a wonderful reminder of how important each person is in making the world a happier place and would make an excellent addition to home libraries.
Ages 3 – 7
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014 | ISBN 978-0399257438
Visit Christian Robinson’s website, where books and art are always fun!
Check out all the music, videos, activities, and other stuff by Justin Roberts on his website!
Petite and Proud Day
Being kind to someone can be as easy as slipping a friendly note into someone’s locker or backpack or leaving a card for a favorite teacher, bus driver, or librarian. If you notice someone who could use a pick-me-up, you could give them one of these cards too! Print out your Kindness Cards and start spreading some good cheer!
Picture Book Review