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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Maisy Big, Maisy Small

[this post written for Saffron Tree]

maisy big maisy small book review lucy cousins concept book of oppositesMaisy Big, Maisy Small
by Lucy Cousins

Recommended Ages: 1-3 years

Maisy Big, Maisy Small is a 2007 publication concept book of opposites written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins.

Lucy Cousins introduced us to Maisy, the adorable little mouse, in 1990. Since then she has written a whopping number of Maisy books which have been translated into several languages with Maisy becoming Mimi in French, Mausi in German and Pina in Italian.

So far, I've been on the fence about Maisy books: I love the level of simplicity projected by Maisy, but, never really got into it with full gusto. However, to my surprise, I instantly liked Maisy Big, Maisy Small, I must admit.

Concept books are quite a useful tool for us parents to help our children explore their world and start defining it with an added level of granularity. By expanding their vocabulary with contrasting terms, this book of opposites helps them learn to describe their world with a little more clarity.

For example, Maisy Squiggly/Maisy Straight shows squiggly lines and straight lines as contrasts. From then on, a line is not just a line anymore - it is a wiggly/squiggly line or a straight line, thus adding an extra layer of definition.

Maisy's two-dimensional world is stripped to the bare essentials, with nothing extraneous to distract the visuals. Vibrant primary colors ("crayon-colors", as I found out they are called) fill the black outlines, making them almost cartoonish, thereby immediately appealing to a child's eye.

The visually stimulating art makes this a lively picture book: Maisy morphs herself to illustrate the opposites - she becomes tall and shoots out of the page and we see only her long legs, whereas in the adjoining page, she shrinks down so she is squat and short, illustrating the tall/short opposites.

Aside: We were playing with her play dough salon toy set the other day. The play dough hair was too short for Ana to give the doll a haircut. So, I said, "let's make the hair long, Ana, it is too short now to give a proper haircut". To which she promptly replied, "No, Amma, let's make it tall, let's make the hair tall... it is too short now"! I had not introduced long vs. short to her before, and looks like she just decided Maisy was right about it and promptly corrected me :)

Big/small, happy/sad, hot/cold, tall/short, thick/thin, push/pull, slow/fast, messy/clean were quite straightforward opposites. However, some of the pairs, while not strictly antonyms, were quite delightful to encounter as contrasts: fluffy/spiky, swim/fly, spots/stripes.

Ana loved this book, not surprisingly, as her daycare teacher has read a few other Maisy books to her in school. The text is very simple and the accompanying visuals reinforce the concepts introduced in the pages. Plus, Tallulah makes an appearance in one of the pages, among other friends, where Maisy Alone/Maisy Together is depicted.

Bottomline: A delightful and educational read for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

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