Review of Are You Big?

Are You Big? Are You Big?
by Mo Willems; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Union Square    32 pp.
2/24    9781454948186    $17.99

Big, bigger, or downright astronomical—it’s all relative in Willems’s latest concept book. On the first page, a round-headed, stick-limbed child smiles at the reader; text opposite asks, “Are you big?” Sitting in the middle of the square, solid-colored page, the kid looks plenty large. Then, a bespectacled hot air balloon arrives, dwarfing the perplexed child; the hot air balloon is big until an oversized cloud rolls in. Each previously big figure is bumped down the line and shrinks down to barely visible specks when truly colossal celestial entities enter the scene: the moon is big and the sun bigger, but wait until you meet the star Pollux or the M100 galaxy! The same gag repeats with each and every page-turn; appealing collage-style illustrations, oversized typography, and a just-right touch of escalating absurdity keep the joke feeling fresh throughout. Careful, clever utilization of relative size and composition allows Willems to capture the magnitude of his subject matter within a petite trim size, and back matter offers numerical comparisons for readers curious to know almost exactly how many “average kids” could fit inside a galaxy cluster. This is a playful introduction to the importance of perspective that brings big laughs.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jessica Tackett MacDonald

Jessica Tackett MacDonald is a collection development librarian at the Boston Public Library, specializing in youth and teen collections. She holds masters degrees in library science and children’s literature from Simmons University.

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