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When Stella Was Very, Very Small

by Marie-Louise Gay

It’s a pleasure to see another book about Stella, Marie-Louise Gay’s indomitable heroine with curly red hair and joie de vivre to match. In this eighth book of the series, Gay has lost none of the spirit and humour that distinguished her earlier books about Stella and her little brother Sam. This new one demonstrates her sure touch with both watercolour pictures and text, which enter freely into the grateful imagination of a preschooler.

Although from an adult point of view Stella might not seem particularly large, to Sam, she is someone who knows the world and its ways and how to enjoy it, and who happily shares this knowledge with him. In this book, she remembers what it was like to be very, very small, discovering the sensations of listening, seeing, and feeling the great new world around her.

Like the other Stella and Sam books, this one is rich in sensory experiences from the perspective of the small. Stella remembers how she imagined herself a turtle, a goldfish, and a dog. Although she couldn’t tie her shoes, and saw words as ants running off the page, she could see the whole world from the top of the couch, and could race her ducks in her Olympic-sized bathtub.

In the later part of the book, a slightly less small Stella experiences the world differently, feeding the goldfish, carrying the dog around like a little sack of potatoes, and understanding that the ants in her book are words that become stories she can read to Sam.

The pictures that express these two ages and perspectives are bright and rich in humorous details that attentive children will enjoy spotting as they are being read to.