The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade


“And  where is the harmony? Sweet  harmony.”-- Nick  Lowe, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and  Understanding”

Sally  McCabe is the smallest girl in the smallest grade.  Quiet and seemingly invisible to those  around her, she’s a keen observer of what is going on at her school and in her  world.  And what so often is going  on around her is hurtful.

“She saw  Kevin McKuen get pushed off a slide--and the  oncoming tears that he wanted to hide.And  she’ll never forget that Parent-Teacher Day when  Billy’s much larger father suddenly dragged him away.

But  through all the mean words and all the cold stares, no one  even noticed Sally was there.

And they  certainly didn’t know, or at least didn’t mention, that  Sally was paying super extra special attention.”

Sally’s  observing continues quietly until one day in the cafeteria.  When she has seen enough, Sally suddenly  steps out of the lunchroom line, raises her finger in the air and  declares:

“‘I’m  tired of seeing this terrible stuff.Stop  hurting each other!  This is  enough!”

And so it  is that the smallest girl in the smallest grade sparks a movement at her  school.  Many schoolmates join her  in opposition to the hurtfulness, and begin acting kinder and more considerately  toward one another.

Christian  Robinson’s colored pencil illustrations depict a diverse student population.  I love the way he  requires us to be keen observers in ordert o see what’s going on.  In several of the spreads, a cursory  glance shows a bunch of kids playing on a playground.  But when we look closer, focusing on the  trees instead of the forest, we can see the hurtful squabbling, shoving, and  excluding that Sally is observing.

What  specific incident incites Sally to cross that line and become a young activist?

The text doesn’t provide  an answer, but a careful look at the illustrations makes me think that I know.  The illustrations show more than the text tells, which can prompt discussions.

What is  more conducive to learning than having school feel like a safe place?  What is more important for us to learn  than empathy, compassion, and the fact that anyone can make a difference?  This is a treasure of a tale that will  be great for the beginning of the school year.  Young students are waiting to see what  kind of place school is.  Have this  one on hand and share it with students to show them.

40 pages                                     978-0-399-25743-8                                                    Ages 4-7

Recommended by:  Richie  Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA

See more of his recommendations:  Richie's  Picks  (

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