Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Material from Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen copyright © 2005, Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Kadir Nelson.  Used by permission of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

Hewitt Anderson is an average sized boy born into a family of great height and girth. His parents  have a belief that big things are best.  Despite his size, Hewitt is nurtured, cherished and included in all aspects of their daily lives. When his parents go out for strolls, Hewitt sits in their intertwined hands or on the brim of his mother's hat or in his father's pocket.  Hewitt is so small that he can fit in the palm of his father's hand. He enjoys falling asleep there while being serenading by his parents' beautiful voices.
Hewitt's parents search for ways to accommodate his small size and keep him safe. Several times they almost lose him between floor boards while sweeping and in flour while baking.  While he is adored, understandably Hewitt's small stature confounds his giant parents. After he reaches the age of seven and still has not grown, they have him examined by specialist from all over the world, without success.  His parents then feel a sense of urgency to teach Hewitt how to survive average-sized in their big world.

Survival Lesson 1 - Swimming. When his parents attempt to teach Hewitt to swim, an accident causes a huge wave which sends Hewitt sailing into the garden maze. While searching for Hewitt in the maze, they  themselves get lost. Ultimately, it is Hewitt that guides his parents safely out.
Survival lesson 2- Bean Stalk Climbing.  While Hewitt is being taught to climb a beanstalk, his father becomes fearful and cannot climb back down. Hewitt hops unto a falling leaf and floats to the ground to summon help.
His parents are increasingly impressed with their son's ability to keep his wits about him.  One fateful day his parents accidently become locked in a room. Hewitt's small size allows him to climb into the keyhole and unlock the door and rescue them.  His resourcefulness gains him his parents' complete acceptance of his size and confidence in his ability to fend for himself. Hewitt Anderson's small size will not prevent him from having a BIG life!

The kids and I have been very delighted with Jerdine Nolen's endearing story of unconditional parental love. The language is quite sophisticated and vocabulary rich which provides an opportunity to advance my childrens' own vocabulary.  Words such as "miniature, stature, girth, resplendent, aria, gargantuan, mammoth and spontaneously,"  are liberally sprinkled throughout. The book is also longer and more complex than the average picture book, which provides the challenge that my kids need.

I have mentioned previously that Kadir Nelson is one of my favorite illustrators. His art always exudes such warmth.  You can  feel the mutal love between adorable, diminutive Hewitt and his giant parents. Nelson also illustrated Salt in His Shoes  and  Please, Baby Please which I featured. As an African American family, I am always on the lookout for great books that allow my children to see themselves reflected positively. Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life fits the bill.


  1. I love the illustration of Hewitt in his gather's hand. What a great message too!

    I too am always on the lookout for books which reflect people like my children positively. It's hard but worth it when it happens!

    1. Hi Madea,

      Any book illustrated by Kadir Nelson is guaranteed to have lovely illustrations. Yes, it is definitely worth it when children see little boys and girls that bear some resemblance to them in the books that they are read! I'm glad you found my site and thanks for stopping by and commenting.