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Actual Size | Class #4, 2015

Actual SizeWe are reading four information books for our next class, all picture books but for various ages.

Steve Jenkins’s Actual Size could be read with very young children or with older ones depending on how you choose to share it. There is basic information in large type and details for older children in smaller type. The information at the end provides more information for the adults who may need to field some difficult questions from kids.

What affect does the collage illustration have? Was this a good choice to illustrate this book? I’ve heard about teachers doing some creative classroom projects using this book as a springboard. I’d love to hear if any of you have ideas to share.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Lindsey Bailey says:

    Wow! This book blew my mind, in both concept and content. This book is not just a cognitive exercise -it’s a physical one! I was literally up and about, pressing my face, hands, and limbs into this book as I read it. Who knew how big an alligator actually is (it’s head is longer than my right arm!) or how tiny a dwarf gaby is (smaller than my thumb). Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to read! The focus on the images, rather than the numerical measurements or other information, makes this book feel accessible, and it invites readers to explore more on their own without feeling imposing whatsoever.

  2. Nicole Eslinger says:

    Even as an adult, this book was really engaging. Conceptualizing size and seeing it on the page are completely different experiences, and young children in particular might benefit from the concreteness of the concept in this book.

    The collage-style illustrations add depth and texture to the animals. With certain animals especially (for example, the Gorilla hand), the cut-paper collage makes the illustration seem as though it is reaching off the page. There were points that I actually felt compelled to touch the paper to see if I could feel the texture of the pictures.

    I found that the various animals produced different emotional reactions as well. While the small mouse and fish appeared helpless and innocent, the tiger seemed powerful and frightening. These emotional responses may serve to further engage young readers in the text.

  3. Zohal Atif says:

    I agree with Lindsey and Nicole that this book was a lot of fun to read and very engaging for an adult reader as well. I liked how the first few pages are devoted to information about the size and the last pages have more information regarding each animal that was featured. The illustrations do wonderful job at creating the sense of smallness or largeness of the animal. While reading I couldn’t help but keep comparing my height and weight to each animal/insect that was featured. Also, I kept thinking about the part of the world that the animal can be found at. So it was not just learning about measurements but also a good exercise for the map of the world. Multiple times I reached out and had to touch the illustration to feel the texture. I didn’t know Atlas Moths don’t eat in their short life and have a new found fear of Giant gippsland earthworm, of all the things.

  4. Joshua Jenkins says:

    I loved the collage illustration in the book, but I also wondered what might happen to the book if the illustrations were photos instead? Would this make the book less whimsical? Would it change the way the pictures invite the readers to interact with the text?

    I also really liked the “zoomed” nature of the art. It was a clever way to show the “actual size,” and I think that the parts of the animal that were chosen were very strategic (the scary shark teeth, the palm of the gorilla).

  5. Hannah Hanssens-Reed says:

    This book immediately made me want to return to my childhood so that I could experience its pages as a kid. The paper cut images of animals and the simple but exciting facts about their interesting nature would have fascinated me. As a child, you are so lost in your own world, and make meaning based on your individual perspective. So to have a book that immediately relates the reader to the material felt magical. I put my hand on the gorilla’s hand, measuring the difference, feeling lost in the immensity of the animal. As a child, those are the pieces of information that make sense and stay with you. This is clearly what the other readers in our class have responded to, and I really commend the illustrator / author for their success in communicating these feelings.

  6. Annie Thomas says:

    I thought this book was really fun! As a preschool teacher, I can see my kids absolutely loving this. It would be a really fun read aloud as I can imagine having them use their own bodies to see how big some of the animals might be.

    As Nicole mention, the texture of the pictures here is very successful and helpful for learning. The collage type illustrations are so fun for children because it does bring about almost a 3-D element that engages them. We had this book in my classroom, and thought I did not do any activities with the book I can see relating it to all sorts of other lessons. Learning about texture, learning about size an how it compares, learning about one animal that was particularly interesting to the child.

  7. Kara Brady says:

    I thought this book was absolutely stunning! Right from the front cover, I was hooked by the use of textured collage. For every image moving forward, I stopped to stare closely at the details within the image. I really like that book focused more on visual images and quick “fun facts” first, and then brought in the more detailed descriptions later. To me, this widens the usefulness of it. The reader can choose if they want to read one part or the other, or both together. Speaking of the detailed descriptions at the end of the book, I loved how the facts included were not all your typical animal facts that adults already commonly know. I learned so much from those few pages! I love how that makes the book interesting for both children and adults. This is such a clever book, I really enjoyed it!

  8. Allison Bates says:

    I kept going back to this book after I finished reading it — the content and beautiful texture of the pictures really grasped my attention! I totally agree with what others mentioned before about being totally engaged. This book is so interactive and makes the reader want to learn more fun facts about animals. Actual Size’s heavy emphasis on pictures makes the book accessible for a wide range of reading levels, while still fun for more proficient readers and adults.

  9. Quinn Dennehy says:

    I agree with everyone’s enthusiasm!! This book made me want to add volumes to it by researching other animals that I have never fully conceptualized their size. The interactive nature of the book made me want to read it to students right away- I pictured how engaging it would be for a child when I was clearly at a 9 myself.

    Josh- I think your comment about whether the book would be as interesting or whimsical if the animals were photographs was a good one. I’m not sure- I think it would take away the wonder of it all a little bit. The combination of an informational text with illustrations I thought was smart, because many times students are turned off by “information” texts and love to instead look at illustrations.

  10. Moses Kim says:

    I absolutely loved this book. It’s amazing how the author and illustrator can take such a simple concept and make it so engaging. When I see the smaller animals I want to put my hand up next to them; when I see the octopus’ eye glaring at me or the shark’s teeth aimed at me or the tiger’s face covering the entire spread, I jump back…and then put my hand up like I’m scared it’ll get bitten off.

    I echo Kara’s point about how the book separates fun tidbits from the longer paragraphs at the end – I could see this being a useful resource for students interested in biology. I also appreciate that several of the paragraphs referenced environmental issues and the endangerment of certain species.

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