Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2018.
Board book nonfiction, 26 pages.
A board book adaptation of Harrison’s popular book Little Leaders.
We already have more board books than one family really needs. But after spending so long hunting for great diverse board books, I still get excited about new releases, especially one like this that has excellent role models for our daughters.
Dream Big features 18 women out of the 40 in Harrison’s earlier book for older readers. While that book appears to be arranged in a roughly chronological order, this one is roughly topical. The women are introduced in groups of 3-5, followed by an individual page for each with their full name beginning a short sentence about them.
The women featured are (in order): Mae Jemison, Bessie Coleman, Katherine Johnson, Josephine Baker, Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, Wilma Rudolph, Raven Wilkinson, Florence Joyner, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Oprah Winfrey, Gwen Ifill, Nichelle Nichols, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Augusta Savage, Octavia E. Butler, Julie Dash.
Although the MG version includes big name figures like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, the board book has a more modern focus. Even the cover features not just one woman but has three. They aren’t named on the cover but can be found inside: Ella Fitzgerald, Mae Jemison, and Katherine Johnson.
When considering this book online, the text Little One in cursive gave me pause. Children typically learn print first, so if this book was in cursive the usable lifespan of it would be significantly shorter. However, inside the book, the text is all either clear standard font or capitalized.
The design is simply excellent. In a world where diverse board books frequently have poor illustrations, inaccurate representations, or good ones are simply out of print, finding #ownvoices books this good makes my heart sing. I was impressed with the quality of this book. The cover has a subtly different texture to any other board book in our collection, and the babies love it!
The illustrations are top notch. They remind me a bit of Brad Meltzer’s chibi figures, but more detailed and mature renderings. Each figure is the focus of the page with light background illustration related to the person but not distracting from the central image. The text is on a solid colored area for ease of reading, with the name above each woman and the sentence continuing below. The only thing that bothered the kids was how all the women had their eyes closed. Particularly Wilma Rudolph while she is running.
After the woman’s full name, they’re described in a sentence of three to ten words. The text for this part must have been challenging – I would struggle to reduce a full-page biography to a few words. But for those figures I know, Harrison did a good job of summarizing.
I loved that some less commonly known figures were chosen. Since African-American history isn’t typically taught in American schools, this may lead to follow-up questions parents and teachers aren’t able to answer. But help is at hand in Harrison’s middle-grade book.
Baby M would give this two thumbs up, but she’s too busy chewing on it. This mom also whole-heartedly approves and would suggest Harrison’s book to any families or early childhood educators starting or growing a board book collection. Although positioned as a bedtime read-aloud, an excellent read at any time of day. Highly recommended.