The Tallest of Smalls is, first and foremost, a beautiful book. Maria Monescillo's illustrations are vivid, rich in color and texture, and full of small details kids love to discover. Without these exciting drawings, this book would be far less interesting.
The text is written in Dr. Seuss-inspired rhyme. The first two times I read this book aloud to my children, I found it clunky and difficult. However, I soon discovered it's really not the text itself that was giving me trouble, but the placement of it on the pages. Unlike a Seuss book, for example, that has blocks of the text on the page, this book's designers chose to spread the stanzas out on the pages - sometimes creating strange breaks in the text. Once I knew the story better, the text flowed more smoothly.
The story is pretty basic, and (at least to an adult) predictable. Ollie is a "not cool" boy who lives in the town of Smalls, where the cool people periodically proclaim someone wonderful and give him a pair of stilts to walk around on. Ollie has little hope of being chosen. His pants are patched, his legs are skinny, his socks never match,
"he laughs with a snortYet, amazingly, one day they do choose him. But Ollie quickly discovers it's tough to walk around on stilts. Birds perch all over him, and he falls "right back where he started," on the ground. The cool people take away his stilts and everyone abandons him. Dejected, Ollie sits on the ground - until he feels the hand of Jesus on his side.
and sleeps with a drool,
too common and dull
for the gang of the cool."
Jesus tells Ollie to keep his feet on the ground, to "choose low over high...You're precious, my Ollie/not too short or too small;/I made you, remember,/you're mine after all." And so Ollie learns
"I may not be much -
the smallest of Smalls-
but since Jesus love me,
I'm the tallest of talls!"
What I Like: This little book is a great reminder not to judge ourselves by the world's standards, nor to get caught up trying to "be someone." With well-written rhyme and gorgeous illustrations, this book easily holds my preschooler's attention.
What I Dislike: I wish this book's designers had made reading this book a bit easier by keeping the stanzas together.
Overall Rating: Very Good.
Age Appeal: 4 - 8.
Publishing Info: Thomas Nelson, 2009; ISBN: 978-1400315147; hardback, $16.99
Special Info: Read our reviews of other Max Lucado books. Watch the book trailer for Tallest of Smalls at YouTube. Tallest of Smalls is tied in with Fearless, Lucado's book for adults.