MTYT: Small Things

Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and Patricia Castrodad, Caguas, Puerto Rico

Last week we started our theme of Emotions by exploring a child’s question: Why Do We Cry?. This week, Small Things invites us to look more deeply at one of those reasons–anxiety–and the ways that the accompanying emotions play out in the day-to-day life of a child.

DOREA: When I first came across Small Things last year, I was instantly captivated by the illustrations. The cover, with its single closeup of a young child’s face captures a range of emotions: uncertainty, sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. Mel Tregonning’s stunning black and white wordless graphic picture book tells the story of a young child struggling with anxiety. Through her exquisitely detailed drawings, she captures the emotions, both visible and invisible, that many children and adults carry with them. We watch, frame by frame, as each of these child’s worries (struggles with schoolwork, finding friends, fitting in) turn into small demons. We often hear anxiety described as “consuming” and Mel Tregonning makes this visible as the demons take pieces from the child, leaving them more and more vulnerable both emotionally and physically. So often adults try to protect children from their emotions, to make light of their feelings and encourage them to “just let it go” and I appreciate that this book shows with raw honesty that this isn’t always possible nor in one’s control.

PATRICIA: Dorea, the illustrations are captivating, I agree. Every single detail in the drawings gives so much information about the young child’s emotional struggles. It is amazing that this wordless book has the power to tell a story through the expressive body (eyes, hands) of a young child who is experiencing difficulty and as a reader I could feel the young child’s struggle. This makes me think of my stance as a reader, the empathetic stance and many others. I also thought of the importance of expressing how we feel, why we feel a certain way, so adults can support children’s social and emotional development. Moreover, as you mentioned “the raw honesty with which the story is told and shown,” is fundamental as we all should recognize, support and not “protect” children by avoiding or ignoring important and difficult conversations.

Can anyone relate to the emotions that the young child in the story is experiencing?

Title: Small Things
Author: Mel Tregonning
Illustrator: Mel Tregonning
ISBN: 978-1772780420
Publisher: Pajama Press
PubDate: March 1, 2018

Throughout October 2020, Dorea Kleker and Patricia Castrodad give their takes on picturebooks that contain a theme of Emotions. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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