The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

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Title: The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Author: Justin Roberts
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published By: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

You guys, this has been a tough year. When I say ‘year,’ I mean ‘365 days.’ Not 2020, not 2021…a full on 12-month-time-period. We’ve been…well, mainly at home. During the summer, we had a bit of a reprieve, but then September came and things started to go pear-shaped. Karl and I talked about whether or not to send the kids back to school this year, and ultimately decided that homeschooling them was the best idea for our family. I have a background in primary/junior education, so I’m relatively qualified.

Anyway, all that said: when I read The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, I felt nostalgic. Super nostalgic. Look at all those kids at school! You can see their little faces. They seem so carefree. We’ll get back to that, I know. At some point, I have faith. It’s just…it’s been such a long time since we’ve had that experience.

But heck, you didn’t come here to read about my pining for the pre-COVID-world. You came here for a book review…and review I shall!

You probably know how much I love Christian Robinson and his awesome illustrating skills. You Matter is one of my current favourite picture books (if you haven’t checked it out, you need to do that now). I asked for The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade for Christmas because it was illustrated by Mr. Robinson. I’m collecting his work, book by book.

So, let’s start with the art: it’s great, as per usual. Here’s what I love most:

  1. The kids are incredibly diverse. When I was a kid (eighty-five-billion years ago, according to my kids), I went to school in Scarborough (now part of Toronto). My school looked like the school in the book. When I was a child, I realized that picture books in the library didn’t feature kids that looked like my friends. I’m so glad that’s changing.
  2. The art is colourful and the colours are vibrant. Most of the backgrounds are white, and that lets the colours pop and stand out.
  3. I just adore Christian Robinson’s style. It’s simple and effective and gorgeous.

Now, the text. I honestly had never heard of Julian Roberts before this, although according to the jacket copy, he’s a star in the family-music genre. I’m guessing it’s because of his song-writing skills that he decided to go with a rhyming text. I have mixed feelings about this choice.

On one hand, there are some solid rhymes and clever lines. On the other hand, sometimes I felt the meter was a bit off.

I liked the overall message of the story: one kid can make a big difference. I do have a bit of trouble with Sally seeing situations of bullying and not helping/alerting an adult, but…I also recognize that’s a really big ask of a really small person.

So, overall I’m going to give this one a 4/5. I loved the art and liked the text. It’s a solid book.

Next time: I promise, more cheery and less dreary.

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