This book is exceptionally wonderful and very meaningful on a personal level.
Many books, and tv episodes about being small focus on the end result that in the future you will grow too, and across the story that is shown, often by a sudden growth spurt, sometimes by the character’s older self looking back fondly and retelling to another small child with this overarching theme of ‘you will grow too’ or ‘you will catch up in time’
However, for some children they will always be small and may never ’catch up’, they may have growth spurts but they will always be the smallest and may never catch up, and this isn’t just for children who are born with dwarfism or related conditions.
My daughters are remarkably smaller than their peers, not just small but tiny however after extensive testing they do not have any of the genes that enable a diagnosis of anything under the dwarfism or related umbrella.
When they were younger this wasn’t such a social issue (though hard for me from a medical perspective) but as Littlefae has got older the differences between herself and other children her age began to become noticeable especially with her being (and I’m not being biased) rather articulate for her age.
Comments, some nasty, some incredulous and some of genuine surprise started to occur from peers calling her a baby, refusing to believe her when she stated her age sometimes excluding her from games; and sometimes adults challenging whether she ‘really’ can read or other skills because in their mind this tiny little girl cannot really be 6 and thus capable of these things.
This isn’t to say all commentary on their height is loaded, they are tiny it’s inescapable but it’s its seemingly ingrained in society to comment on those who fall outside a narrow band of acceptance whether being small as the runt or being very tall as a lofty giant, the negativity or underestimation towards Littlefae has certainly increased over the last few years.
And it’s incredibly frustrating because we have always tried to give our girls the message that they are perfect just the way they are, they are exactly how they are meant to be and there is nothing ’wrong’ with the way they have been made. (Please note I’m not passing judgement on those with profound disabilities, body dysmorphia, transgender people or anything like that- there is vast difference between those situations and littler than usual girls needing to be proud of being tiny)
But this aggression whether outright or passive erodes best intentions & support, which is why when I first read this book I cried.
It’s also why it’s taken me 6 months to put a review together because I get a bit weepy everytime I think about reviewing it.
The child in this book is frustrated by their limitations; how they don’t seem to fit into anything, how they are marginalised due to their height and gets so angry at all this disenfranchisement, underestimation and lack of care that they throw their teddy up into a tree which of course they are too small to retrieve.
Instead of asking for help the child wishing to be bigger tries everything even watering themselves like a plant! But it is to no avail, and even when a kind tall girl turns up.
However by working together and realising that they are not the only one who feels like they don’t fit in, you are just right the way you are and that sometimes you can feel like you fit in together.
The illustrations are wonderfully inclusive with a BAME main character and whilst Littlefae has decided the small character is a boy (she has named them Tim) I’ve noticed other reviewers have picked up there is a lovely ambivalence about whether this character is a boy, a girl with short hair and this is supported by the lack of a name given to our protagonist.
Laura Ellen Anderson herself has started she is a smaller adult similar to how my girls are expected to be so to see this kind of book from someone who truly understands and has been there is immensely powerful.
I feel incredibly thankful for Laura Ellen Anderson; her Amelia Fang books have been pivotal in Littlefae’s reading journey making her want to read books, and then this carving a place in my heart.
If you know of any other suitable books about smaller than average protagonist who does wonderful things and aren’t just overcoming bullying or ‘growing’ by the end of the book is love to hear
I don’t want to be small by Laura Ellen Anderson is published by Bloomsbury