Being a small kid in a big world isn’t always easy. It’s sometimes hard to get noticed, let alone feel like anything is within your control. But three new picture books are guaranteed to encourage even the smallest children to stand up for themselves—and others.

In The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, family music star Justin Roberts and up-and-coming artist Christian Robinson combine their considerable talents to tell the story of Sally McCabe. While Sally may indeed be the smallest one in school, she has a large capacity for paying “extra special attention” to everything going on around her. It’s Sally who notices tiny incidents: “how a whisper could make someone cower like a bulldozer crushing through fields of wildflowers.” Eventually, Sally speaks up, starting a wave of kindness, proving that you don’t have to be big and powerful to make a difference. The rhyming text is enhanced by Robinson’s playful colored pencil illustrations.

Like Sally McCabe, the Elliot in Mike Curato’s arresting debut title, Little Elliot, Big City, is tiny—a petite, somewhat shy, polka-dotted elephant to be precise. (And yes, a plush animal is in the works.) The dedication, “For anyone who feels unnoticed,” captures Little Elliot’s daily experiences as he makes his way around a 1930s/'40s New York City: riding on the subway, trying to catch a cab and, most importantly, attempting to order a cupcake from the local bakery. But as Elliot learns, there is always someone a little smaller or in need of help, and when he and his new friend Mouse work as a team, they achieve both success (yum!) and make a new friend. With its iconic images and heartwarming story, this first book is a memorable start to what is sure to be a successful series and career.

It’s perhaps fitting that the last book Leo Dillon was working on before his death was about empowering children around the globe. Leo and Diane Dillon’s If Kids Ran the World is a boisterous celebration of diversity, harmony and imagination. Things, little and big, would be different if kids ran the world, whether it’s housing that doesn’t ruin the land or sea, medicine for people who need it, or just not being teased because of the clothes you wear. As the authors’ note says, “Kids who make the world better will probably grow up into adults who want to do the same thing.” And that can certainly be said of Leo and Diane Dillon, whose commitment to equality has empowered generations of children and adults to make a difference in the world.


Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is The Great Trouble.

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