Sara Acton, As Big As You, Scholastic, 1 September 2015, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk) ISBN 9781743629697
This text has an unusual format where the pages lift up rather than turning to the left – imagine a normal picture book with the binding across the top of the page rather than along the left hand edge. The different design allows the story of Claude the adult elephant and Finlay the baby elephant to be illustrated with a sense of height which visually captures the difference in size between the two animals.
The discrepancy in size forms the basis for the action of the tale as little Finlay compares his meagre physical abilities to the powerful trumpeting, spraying and running of Claude. When Finlay finds himself alone he falls from a tree but it is the strong but calm Claude who catches him. While Finlay longs for the strength and size of an adult, Claude affectionately plays with him and reminds him there is no hurry to grow up and to enjoy the fun of being young and small.
Sara Acton has used soft water colours, changes in perspective and the white space on the page to great effect creating an atmosphere of space and size that takes full advantage of the unusual format. The two elephants are very endearing with a sense of Finlay’s awkwardness and Claude’s restrained strength evident in their happy expressions and playful interactions. The text is clear and unobtrusively placed on the page with key words in a larger font or highlighted with watercolour paint.
As Big As You is a gentle reminder to enjoy all stages of life and its message to the young reader in particular is to not wish their life away but to take pleasure in who they are. Suitable for ages three plus it is a fun and engaging text that is sure to become a favourite.
Reviewed by John Nolan