Little Juniper Makes It Big
Little Juniper Makes It Big
Juniper was little. Too little, she thought.
"Adults only build things in adult sizes," she grumbled just loud enough for her momma to hear. "If kids made houses, we'd make them so they fit properly."
Like all clever children, she found unfairness most annoying.
"Patience, Junebug," her momma said. "You're growing more every day."
But three days later, Juniper was still no bigger.
At bedtime she couldn't concentrate on her book. For my whole entire life, everything's been too big for me, she thought.
Later that night, Juniper's little thought grew.
By breakfast, her little thought had become a big idea. By lunchtime, a cunning plan.
Juniper assembled springboards and stilts, built heighteners and hoppers, made cranes and catapults, and...even flew by balloon. But despite her inventiveness, Juniper's efforts fell short.
This charming read-aloud is about a young raccoon named Juniper. Life is mostly dandy for her but for the fact that nearly everything is several sizes too big for this independent-minded young lady. As described in the excerpt, all her efforts to reach a high cupboard to get creme-stuffed cookies come to no avail. What's a clever raccoon to do?
Frustrated, at least Juniper doesn't stand out at school. There, she is just "average" sized, which suits her just fine. In fact, a new classmate named Clove, a flying squirrel, is by far the teeniest scholar, and she impresses Juniper with her ingenuity in maximizing her reach in a world made for bigger folks.
Clove invites Juniper over for a sleepover one weekend, an invitation which Juniper happily accepts. At Clove's home, Juniper is ecstatic to find that everything is the perfect size for her--in fact, she is larger than Clove's parents. She didn't need to climb or stretch to reach anything, but she soon discovers there are downsides to being less vertically challenged. Hide and seek, for example, ends all too quickly. She can't swing very high on Clove's tiny swingset, and dress-up and bouncing on the bed are less about make-believe and more about fashion disasters and the risk of a concussion. Juniper has a bad night's rest cramped in Clove's bunk bed, and she returns home a wiser raccoon.
Juniper learns that everything is about perspective, and she now recognizes that home is a "very nearly, almost perfect" home. Relieved that she doesn't graze the ceiling when her dad lifts her above his head, the last picture shows Juniper enjoying a bath drawn by her mum, for "most things [in her house] were wonderful" after all.
Little Juniper Makes It Big is a sweet read-aloud picture book with a precocious protagonist who figures out a life lesson all by herself without an adult pedantically showing the way. Cassie's gift for making Juniper's plight both comic and frustrating for the young reader is a winsome combination of illustration and text. Cassie has a gift for depicting the kinetic energy of Juniper and her friend Clove as they stretch and leap to get just-out-of-reach items at home and in school. The woodland animals' anthropomorphic traits make them that much more relatable to young readers who may share some of Juniper's gripes about the world being the wrong size for them. A gentle and warm colour palette glows with the optimism of Juniper's can-do attitude, making this a cozy, comforting read.
Endpapers of Little Juniper Makes It Big show sepia toned pencil sketches of Juniper manoeuvring her way in an adult world to get to a cookie jar--swinging from a chandelier, using a hanger to shimmy on a rail to draw nearer, teetering on stilts. This is a sweet story that will draw parent and child closer together for the hugs and cuddles that Juniper receives as her family's littlest member. It also demonstrates perseverance and ingenuity on the part of Juniper to find ways to cope in a world not designed with her in mind. With its message about enjoying being pint-sized while you can, Cassie's debut picture book has a big heart and is sure to be a story time favourite.
Ellen Wu, a teen services librarian at Surrey Libraries' City Centre Library, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.