Alison McLennan and Connah Brecon – Great and Small

Storytorch Press, Australia, 2022
Interior design by Flo + Ebb Design
Official release date 1 July 2022

Great and Small is not just another unicorn story. Not that there is anything wrong with unicorn stories. I’m pretty partial to unicorns myself. However, this is a story about courage, perseverance, friendship and valuing everyone’s different abilities and qualities.

Barbie spoke to Alison McLennan about Great and Small

Eunice is a small sport mad unicorn, but her very smallness means she cannot win against larger, more robust unicorns in sporting competitions. With the support of her friends, she gives it a red hot go, but she is bound to fail because the playing field, like life, is not always equal.

Undaunted, with her friends the sloth, the tortoise and the fish, Eunice brings to bear the courage she has needed to try to win against the odds. She comes up with a plan for an event where everyone’s strengths can be recognised and where everyone has a place.

This not only results in excitement and participation from the whole community, but it also gives Eunice a sense of pride in her achievement, in the expansion of her dream into something much bigger and better.

In a world where sport and other types of competition are constantly in our faces on television screens, it is good to contemplate another way of doing things and seeing things. It is certainly refreshing to see the notion of positive failure espoused – how else do we learn if not by failing to some extent?

Connah Brecon’s illustrations allow us to clearly see the differences between the characters, but to see them in a positive light. He devotes a lot of attention to facial expressions and body language, something young children pick up on very easily.

The quirkiness of a sack race for an elephant, a skunk and a rabbit definitely appeals to me. The friendly association of a huge range of diverse animals who would not normally gather with one another is another nice touch.

With its well-articulated message of inclusivity and hope, this book is a welcome addition to the current crop of Australian children’s picture books. The story is sensitively told, the plea to act with kindness towards one another cogently though gently put. And could there be a better time for such a message?

Thank you to Storytorch Press for my review copy and to Alison for chatting with me about the important messages of this book.