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Big and Small are machines that work together as a team. "But some days Big goes a bit wobbly, and I get a lot worried." Through the book Big malfunctions in a variety of ways and Small tries to help with the assistance of The Boss, Mechanic and Tools. The story is a metaphor for a child living with an adult who suffers from mental illness. Big and Me is dramatically illustrated with paper sculpture.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781876462697
ISBN-10: 1876462698
Format: Hardback
(265mm x 202mm x 8mm)
Pages: 32
Imprint: Ford Street Publishing Pty Ltd
Publisher: Hybrid Publishers
Publish Date: 1-Oct-2008
Country of Publication: Australia

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Book Review: Big and Me by David Miller - Reviewed by (27 Jul 2010)

Big and Small are machines that work together. They’re a team. The best. But every so often Big gets a bit wobbly and this worries Small – a lot. After one such episode, Small calls The Boss and Big is sent to Mechanic to be fixed up. All Big needs is medicine to sort out his malfunctioning computer and then all is well once more. But when Big decides he no longer needs the medicine, disaster strikes and poor Small is in the firing line. While Big is being fixed up yet again, Small forms a friendship with Tich, who also has a machine in his life who gets a bit wobbly. Through this meeting Small learns that it’s not his fault that Big is the way he is, and that with help, Big will get better. Big gets himself sorted and he and Small go back to being the best team ever – most of the time.

Everything about this book is original. This simple story deals with the prickly issue of mental illness in a very clever way. With one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness in their lifetime, this subject definitely needs to be addressed. The creative use of font styles and sizes draws attention to what’s important.

But the highlight here would have to be the wonderful 3D paper sculptures that illustrate each page. The bright colours are used to great effect, and the machine characters are incredibly detailed. It’s obvious Miller has put a lot of thought into using well-considered camera angles for the greatest emotional impact. This is a book that children – and adults – will thumb through over and over again, if only to try and figure out how Miller created such imaginative pieces. To infuse paper and card with such depth and personality is truly a gift.

Of course, Miller is no amateur when it comes to illustration and design. He is the artistic genius behind Mem Fox’s, Boo to a Goose, not to mention his own CBC Honour Book, Refugees, and numerous others.

While the age guide has been given as 7+ I see no reason why younger children won’t get something from this title. Preschoolers understand the concept of illness and the need for medication. The similarity between a machine’s mixed-up computer and a human brain isn’t that difficult to grasp.

Big and Me is a pictorial feast, functional and entertaining. What more could picture book readers want?

Jenny Mounfield is the author of two junior novels, Storm Born and The Black Bandit. Her first YA novel, The Ice-cream Man was released in July.

Book Review: Big and Me by David Miller - Reviewed by (27 Jul 2010)

Mental illness is the hardest thing for many people to understand and more so for children. This book is a wonderful concept for helping children understand how grown-ups or older children act when they suffer any type of mental illness. It also teaches adults how children perceive those actions; how they feel, how easily they misinterpret them and how afraid they become when what they see as normal transforms into something scary. This book should be used as a tool for and with discussion about unpredictable behaviour. I feel this versatile tool could be used to explain other areas of unusual behaviour that stem from illness that isn’t easily corrected, illness that demands patience and understanding.

The story is narrated by Small. Big and Small are machines that spend a lot of time together. But sometimes Big becomes ‘wobbly’ and needs to take his ‘tractor medicine’ each day to help him. At times Big’s world looks ‘grey and dull’ and he doesn’t know why. Small calls the Mechanic when Big is like this. Her tools fix Big up.

But, there are times when Big feels better. He stops taking his medicine but, he becomes aggressive and Small has to ‘get out of the way’. The whole text is made up of metaphors like these so that children can understand or have it explained to them. The text covers how the mind works, why it doesn’t work properly at times, and that help is always available to the sufferer, and to friends and family. It explains why someone will cry, lose control, and function differently to how they normally would.

It accents the fact that a sufferer of mental illness is not alone, but that there are others just like him; that it’s nobody’s fault they are this way. It also draws attention to the fact that people should be able to talk about how they are feeling and seek help freely and without fear of being ridiculed; that medication can stabilise the condition and allow the sufferer to live a normal life.

I read this with my bright, five year-old tester, and we discussed the pages one by one in full. I questioned what he thought the book was about, and what the narrative/dialogue meant. He did question a few things, and we discussed it further. I was comfortable that he fully understood the concept. Some children will need more guidance and explanation than others.

The full-page colour illustrations are photographed, 3D paper sculptures, using vibrant, earthy shades. The characters are shaped by strong angular lines and curves and will appeal greatly to young audience. All correspond uniformly with the text. Well done and highly recommended.

Book Review: Big and Me by David Miller - Reviewed by (14 May 2010)

This is an A4 hardback, full-colour picture book illustrated with photographs of 3D paper sculptures. Both text and sculptures are by David Miller.

This is the story of two machines, Big and Small, who work together as a team. They work well together and are happy… except when Big goes a bit wobbly. You see, Big has a malfunctioning computer, which causes him to behave erratically. Small is worried about Big, and tries to help him with the assistance of two other machines, The Boss and Mechanic.

The story is a metaphor for a child living with an adult who suffers from mental illness. It is handled with sensitivity, in a way that children are likely to understand. It’s a book that can be read on two levels. For kids who are living with someone who has a mental illness (or who know someone in that situation), this story is likely to be one they can really relate to. And for kids who are not in a situation like this, the book can still be enjoyed simply as a good story.

On a purely visually level, this book is stunning. The paper sculptures are unique and detailed, and really bring the characters to life.

The book is recommended for children aged seven and up, but I think it’s quite appropriate for younger kids as well. I read it to my five-year-old daughter, and although the metaphor went over her head, she enjoyed the story and pictures. In fact, as soon as I had finished reading it, she asked me to read it again. And that, I think, is a pretty good thumbs up.


Author Biography - David Miller

This is Miller's 14th picture book and the fifth that he has written. His books are illustrated with photographs of his dramatic, colourful, 3D paper sculptures. His latest books are The Secret Life of Hedley Wheelspin and Lofty's Mission.

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