Bringing Richness to the World
A Review of
The Girl With Big, Big Questions
Britney Winn Lee and Jacob Souva (illustrator)
Big Bear Was Not the Same
Joanna Rowland and John Ledda (illustrator)
Reviewed by Erin F. Wasinger
ERB Contributing Editor
Specializing in Books for Young Readers
Author Britney Winn Lee knows we’ve all met a kid like The Girl With Big, Big Questions. Her character asks — all day — every question that pops into her young brain. Her wonderings are sometimes unknowable and complex (“Hey, how was the whole world made?”), sometimes common childhood refrains (“why even have bedtime at all?”). She’s cute until she’s annoying … and then she realizes maybe the world’s not interested in her questions after all. School-aged kids can relate, and the redemptive ending is unexpected and cute. The Girl With Big, Big Questions has the same charm, attention to rhyme, and self-acceptance message as Lee’s and Souva’s first book, The Boy With Big, Big Feelings. Perhaps most lovely is Lee’s steadiness with both characters. Rather than “fixing” the children, she celebrates those Big, Big things, modeling for readers how their own expressions and wonderings and emotions can bring richness to their own worlds.
Big Bear Was Not the Same is one of the gentlest and honest tales of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder for young children. Joanna Rowland (who also wrote The Memory Box and When Things Are Hard, Remember) has created a cute but careful story about Little Bear and his best friend, Big Bear. Big Bear survives a forest fire. His brain isn’t the same afterward. Little Bear’s earnest efforts to get Big Bear to smile are natural but ineffective; it’s not until they’re just together in silence that Big Bear can talk about it. This book touches on the hard stuff about PTSD, seen through the lens of a child (why is Big Bear sad if he’s so big and brave?). Best of all, it ends with a hopeful note, not on healing Big Bear but on friends simply being there for one another.
Erin F. Wasinger is a writer, speaker, and an elementary school “library lady," as well as our Contributing Editor Specializing in Books for Young Readers. Erin’s also the cofounder of Spark Writers of Southern Michigan, blogger for MadeleineLEngle.com, and author of The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, 2017). Find her online at: ErinWasinger.com