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Actual Size | Class #4, 2016

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. Kara Lawson says:

    Information books are so often drowning in text that the reader has to hunt for the good stuff… but not in Actual Size! Steve Jenkins effectively uses limited text on the bulk of the pages to highlight impressive facts about the animals’ sizes and maintains an exciting pace, treating curious readers to more details at the end. I found myself reading this book slowly and delighting in each page: lifting the face of the Alaskan brown bear next to my own for a humorous comparison, laying my hand inside the gorilla’s and marveling at the difference, and putting the Goliath bird eater tarantula down on my bed in what will be an image forever burned in my memory. The engaging illustrations combined with purposeful text make this book so much fun to read and one that I won’t soon forget!

  2. Sophie Blumert says:

    I think that the collage technique was a great choice made by Jenkins, and I agree that this could be a good starting point for a project in the classroom. Students could pick their favorite animal and create a collage of it in actual size, and provide some extra information that they find interest. The collages are incredibly engaging, and has the feel of a fictional picture book rather than a nonfiction book, which would be appealing for students. This book works really well for both younger and older readers – the younger readers will likely marvel at the size of some of the images (I found myself gasping at the size of the tarantula), and the information section in the back offers older readers a chance to learn more information.

  3. Megan Wilhelm says:

    I really enjoyed interacting with this book. Just like Kara, I was engaging with every page by moving the book around my environment or putting my hand down to get a sense of the size comparison. The use of touch and movement added so much to the illustrations and text that I think that this book would work better when read in smaller groups rather than as a whole class read-aloud. I would imagine that it is more fun to be able to bring the animals and insects to life by putting the images into perspective in your own creative way than it is to watch others make the comparison (though that could be fun too!). I appreciated that the illustrations at the end of the book included a full image of the animal or insect so that students could match the highlighted parts with the whole creature. I thought Sophie’s project idea was fantastic, and I agree with Lolly that this book could launch a number of different projects in the classroom across many subjects. While I was reading, I was pondering math lessons on measurement, art projects using collage, and science projects on animals and insects.

  4. John Travis says:

    I’m in general agreement with all the earlier commentators on the experience of reading this book. Early in the course we talked about how a picture book is ultimately an experience as it is connected to an oral tradition of storytelling. The experience of this book in particular is fascinating. While somewhat stylized, the paper collage images create a vivid a real experience for the book, which is particularly important for this content. Every page turn is an experience. I found myself overwhelmed imagining staring into the eye of the giant squid. I also found myself placing my hand on the gorilla’s hand realizing how I wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight with him. Just like on the cover, the book uses contrasts well to realize how big and small various animals are. It’s a really fascinating read.

  5. Kaitlin Herbert says:

    I really enjoyed reading “Actual Size” by Steve Jenkins. Having read “What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?” with my first graders during our animal adaptations science unit, I found “Actual Size” to be just as engaging! The collage illustrations really made the images appear almost 3D and physically jump off the page. As an adult learner, I found myself continually turning to the informational section in the back to learn more information about animals I didn’t know (i.e. who know alligators were the #1 animal killers of humans?!). I can imagine this book being an excellent spring board for students to delve into more specific research on an animal that catches their interest.

  6. Soujanya Ganig says:

    Like Kara and Megan, I too enjoyed interacting with the book! It was a first of its kind book I was reading and I thought the whole idea of showing animals in actual size was a great idea. I was wondering if this method of showing animals this way is better than the animation method where they are shown in skewed proportions.  I thought this portrayal makes the animal more real and more alive. Interacting with this book could be the first time many young readers are learning about these animals. This real portrayal may make the children feel more connected to the animals, help build empathy and not see them as the other.

  7. Addie Webb says:

    I truly loved reading this book and so wish I had known about it when I was teaching second grade, as I’m sure my students would have been just as mesmerized! Conceptualizing an animal’s physical size based only on measurements or statistics is extremely difficult for adults let alone for children. Even photographs often don’t do a species justice, as it is difficult to perceive the scale and relative size of the animals being portrayed. I thought “Actual Size” did a superb job of bringing animals to life in a way that is relatable for children and adults who may have never encountered anything similar. Even those animals that were far too large to portray in their entirety, such as the African Elephant, were displayed in a way that allows readers to internalize their enormity. Showing just the elephant’s foot (as it took up a full two pages) was ingenious!

  8. Annie Kleiman says:

    Very cool concept and great execution. This book generates more questions than it answers, which is great for sparking curiosity. I really enjoyed how it encourages more interaction with the book than the typical actions of reading the text and looking at the pictures.

  9. Ken Hagberg says:

    Just like others, this book was awesome to interact with! I really enjoyed twisting it around and holding it up for comparison to myself and random people around me in Gutman. I actually found such limited text to be much more engaging and the interesting composition of the illustrations kept me looking at them longer than I otherwise would have. This book would be great for my ELL learners as it is accessible at different reading levels and provides plenty of discussion and teaching points for each. Cool book, will definitely add to library.

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