Caterpillar or tadpole, “little bitty man” or “little little girl,” the diminutive characters of these new picture books have big adventures — proving that what they lack in size, they make up in personality.
The pond gets crowded when Ken Kimura’s 999 Tadpoles transform into 999 frogs, but relocation is hazardous: a hungry hawk nabs Father. Mother’s quick thinking saves the day as she and all the young ones grab on. The wiggling, complaining string of frogs becomes too much for the hawk, which drops them right into a commodious new pond. There’s not a word misplaced in the funny text, and Yasunari Murakami’s illustrations are full of lively movement. (3–6 years)
The teeny protagonist of Kristen Balouch’s The Little Little Girl with the Big Big Voice has such a big, booming voice that she scares off potential playmates (elephant, snake, crocodile). When she comes upon a lion, she meets her match — and makes a friend. Collage-like digital illustrations in a fluorescent palette as loud as the girl’s voice are funky and invigorating. Parents beware: this boisterous book emits an energy unbefitting a bedtime read. (2–5 years)
Gentle rhyme provides a quiet atmosphere for bright cut-paper collages in Bill Martin Jr and Lois Ehlert’s Ten Little Caterpillars, which serves as both counting book and introduction to ten members of the Lepidoptera order. The last caterpillar (a tiger swallow tail) becomes a chrysalis before maturing into a butterfly. Lush illustrations show the caterpillars amid the labeled flora and fauna of their habitats; back matter gives more information about each species included. (2–5 years)
A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Young, translated by Marilyn Nelson and Pamela Espeland, features thirteen of the late Danish poet Halfdan Rasmussen’s poems. While the absurd situations and characters (like the titular miniscule man and his wife) of these short selections will elicit laughter, much of the humor comes from Nelson and Espeland’s perfect combinations of words and meaning. Kevin Hawkes’s illustrations get the mix of whimsy, innocence, and childlike dignity just right. (3–6 years)