a list of…five mighty good stories about mighty tiny people

George Shrinks, words and pictures by William Joyce

George wakes up one morning to discover something quite odd:  he’s shrunk!  Like a woolen sweater in the wash. 

His parents are out for the day, and they’ve left him a note with instructions.  George sets about carrying out their orders with aplomb, despite his wee size.  Thanks to his inventive mind, his chores actually end up being a whole lot of fun!

Snowboarding down the dirty dishes on a sponge.  Riding baby brother like a maharajah on an elephant as they haul out trash.  Scuba diving in the fish bowl.  Best of all, when George finds a new model airplane in the mail, he takes it for a  spin!  So cool.

There’s added danger, too, however, particularly from the family cat.  Can George avoid those terrible claws, or is he doomed ?

William Joyce created this picture book in 1985 to roaring success.  The idea of becoming a miniature person in a world that’s suddenly full of oversized objects is a tantalizing one for children to contemplate.  Joyce’s signature, highly-stylized  illustrations are bright with color, adventure, motion, and good cheer.  Great fun!

The Tub People, by Pam Conrad, Illustrations by Richard Egielski

The Tub People are Father, Mother, Grandmother, Doctor, Policeman, Child, and Dog.  Standing about 2 inches tall, made of polished wood, painted in jolly colors, they remain silently at their posts along the rim of the bathtub  in precisely the same order,  every day.  When bathtime comes, however, the Tub People go into action!  They cruise on bars of soap and hold water races, bobbing merrily along in the warm, sudsy water.

But.  One evening the water begins rushing down the drain before the Tub People are properly lined up in safety, and oh! horrors! Tub Child disappears right down the drain!  Such a sad line-up now.  Try as they might, they just cannot find him. 

This story does not have such a dismal ending, though.  How is Tub Child rescued?  And how is it that the Tub People embark on mountaineering expeditions instead of their previous watery excursions?

Such a clever story!  Shrewd children will easily grasp what is actually going on in the world of the Big People as the adventures are narrated.  For anyone who has had cherished Lego guys or Playmobile citizens disappear down vents or drains or whatnot, the pathos of the story will ring very true!  Egielski’s illustrations are surprisingly similar to those of William Joyce; the close-up perspectives on our world from a miniature tub person’s viewpoint are brilliant.

The Snail House, by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Gillian Tyler

After a lovely day of strawberry-picking, Grandma  gathers Michael,  Hannah, and the baby on her wide porch steps and begins…”Once upon a time…”

The story she spins is of a boy, his sister, and their little baby brother, who suddenly shrink to just about nothing at all; so teensy they can scootch out the door through a minute crack; so tiny they can take up residence in a snail house.

Such an exquisite snail house, with sunny yellow door, lovely balconies and banisters and sparkling windows.  And, of course, being a snail house, it moves as well, and brings the children to several exciting adventures.  There are three adventures, to be exact.  One involving an earthquake and a fox, one involving a dandelion tuft parachute, and one, the scariest of all, includes a thrush and a cat. By the time Grandma’s story is done, the garden is muffled in darkness, the birds have settled to rest, and it’s time for bed.

This is a gentle, delightful story, so full of sweetness and charm and imaginative, child-size adventure.  Grandma knows just what is enticing to think about, and how scary things can get just before bed without disturbing pleasant dreams.  Michael and Hannah add their two bits, echoing our own thoughts and questions as we listen to Grandma’s tale.

Tyler’s illustrations are absolutely extraordinary!  Charming, detailed, paintings of the Lilliputian children and their adorably outfitted snail house, as well as the natural world surrounding them — plump, pendulant, raspberries and golden beetles, nobbly acorn caps, seed pods,and  feathers filling their paths.  Just excessively charming.

Tom Thumb, retold and illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson

I assume you know the story.  How Merlin comes in disguise to the peasant cottage of a kind farmer and his wife, kind, but heartbroken because of having no children, and fulfills their desire to have a baby, even were he no bigger than a thumb.

This tiny fellow, named Tom Thumb, is dressed in tunic spun of spiderweb and jacket woven from thistledown and is an extremely clever, curious lad who winds up in all sorts of adventures.  Eventually a raven carries Tom off, dropping him onto the battlements of a castle belonging to a giant named Grumbong.  He escapes, but discovers something very important about Grumbong which comes in quite handy as he seeks to help King Arthur defend his own castle against the giant’s attack.  For his valor and victory, he is knighted by King Arthur and returns home with cartloads of gold for his dear parents.  Nice.

Richard Jesse Watson is a phenomenal illustrator whose paintings in this book are jaw-droppingly splendid. The giant’s broad, lined face, and Tom’s tiny, tufted, mouse-skin shoes; the explosion of colorful scales on a fish, and the velvety soft fur of the rabbits and mice in Tom’s army — all are graced with detailed perfection.  You and your child will love the tale, and pour over the drawings, both of which provide a rich feast for the imagination. 

Five Bad Boys, Billy Que, and the Dustdobbin, story by Susan Patron, pictures by Mike Shenon

Billy Que is a gangly ol’ good-natured cowboy who has struck up a friendship with a scrabbly bunch of boys in previous adventures.  One morning, upon getting out of bed, Billy Que accidentally steps on the tiny toes of the Dustdobbin who resides under his bed.  Instead of apologizing, though, Billy Que makes a smart remark which infuriates the Dustdobbin.

Ka-wham!  The Dustdobbin exacts revenge by shrinking Billy Que down to his own miniscule size, and despite Billy Que’s pipsqueak protests, the Dustdobbin insists that he will not return him to his original stature until five gifts are freely given to Billy Que; no asking allowed.

Well.  Billy Que is quite vexed about this, so when the five rowdy boys lope into the yard, he is in no chitchat mood and tells them to skedaddle pronto.  However, these boys never do as they’re told, and by and by they take pity on the puny size of their old friend.  One by one, they figure out some small ways to help the poor little fellow — a bottle top sunhat, a tiny paper cup for a drop of a drink, even a popsicle stick bench. 

So, it isn’t long at all before  Billy Que grows back to his natural size, and he and the Dustdobbin continue on more mutually respectful and congenial terms. 

Billy Que is a rollicking good read.  Funny, clever, full of zing and just the right touch of sass.  With a ball of lint taking on a life of its own,  a tiny ol’ guy in a pink nightshirt fussing and fuming, and five grass-stained rascals tenderly taking care of a friend in need…it is a unique storyline that’s a whole lot of fun.  Bold ink and watercolor pictures bring the text to life with flair.

Here are Amazon links for all these size-able stories:
George Shrinks (Reading Rainbow)
The Tub People
Snail House
Tom Thumb
Five Bad Boys, Billy Que, and the Dustdobbin