Too Big or Too Small? / Pompon

Too Big or Too Small?
Catherine Leblanc and Eve Tharlet

Where his parents are concerned, little bear, Martin just can’t win with his actions. “Don’t be silly, Martin” says Mama when the cub sees his baby sister drinking from a bottle and asks for a bottle, too – “you’re far too big for a bottle!” (Is she aware of sibling jealousy one wonders.) Shortly after when the cub tries using a knife to cut his food, she insists on doing it for him. (Why not show him how to help himself?).

Then his father chastises him for dragging his favourite soft toy animal around all the time – apparently he’s too big to take him out; but then he won’t allow him to use his mobile “No Martin. you’re still too small … you might break it.”

Now Martin isn’t one to be completely dominated and tries to find some ways of his own to show his parents how he feels about what’s been happening.

He also makes the occasional comments about what his parents are attempting to do: “Mama, aren’t you too big to do that?” is his comment on seeing her taking a fingerful of chocolate frosting while baking. Eventually both Mama and Papa come to realise they need to give more importance to doing things they can all enjoy together as a family.

It’s great that Catherine Leblanc makes Martin himself instrumental in changing his mum and dad’s parenting in this fun demonstration of child activism. Throughout the story, Eve Tharlet’s droll scenes are sure to amuse adults as well as young listeners: her portrayal of the bears’ body language and facial expressions are superbly done, especially when the adults are at odds with Martin.

Géraldine Elschner and Joanna Boillat

This story was inspired by a famous real statue almost seven feet long created by French sculptor François Pompon.
The titular Pompon is a large white bear statue in a museum, a statue that fascinates young Leo when he visits one day. Mesmerised Leo stands staring for ages, taking in its shape and enormity, its smooth texture and the curve of its ears. (This we see in Joanna Boillat’s close-ups that extend over half a dozen spreads.) Now Leo has a special magical look in his eyes and cannot resist reaching up and stroking Pompon’s cheek. The museum guard, initially angry,

then softens towards the boy, seemingly understanding how he felt but asking him to promise it was a one time only touch. A touch however that sets off a transformation in the ursine statue; wings appear on its back and Pompon is free and he takes flight, far, far away … Could it perhaps be that he becomes the constellation shown in the final illustration.

A magical tale engagingly and poetically told and even more magically illustrated, particularly on account of the artist’s clever use of the white space of the bear’s form; that, and the contrast with Leo and his red scarf. A book to encourage youngsters to imagine, to dream and to look long at art in all its forms.

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