Pham’s latest relies on readers’ first understanding “little” as a synonym for “trivial” or “unimportant” and then resisting this implication by seeing good, significant things in small packages.
Unfortunately, the achievement of the charming digital artwork is undermined by the execution of the book’s central idea, which establishes that littleness might be seen as problematic. A frontmatter page opens with a statement from a smiling child: “Everyone says I’m little. / I really don’t agree. / If only they could see what I see / When I look at me,” but this doesn’t go far enough to explain why being perceived as little is something that needs correction. On ensuing pages, recto page die cuts provide glimpses of underlying reveals, as the first page questions the littleness (insignificance) of one thing, and the page-turn establishes its importance. “A little light?” for example, shows a candle in the first spread, its flame peeking through the die cut, but then the page-turn reveals “No, a welcoming light,” with the candle now situated in a lighthouse guiding a ship. Ironically, this belies the book’s very message, since the little thing (a candle) is revealed as a big thing (a lighthouse), which is a problem that dogs other spreads, too.
There is such a thing as little, after all, and can’t it be just right? (Picture book. 3-5)