Big and small

For hundreds of years, children’s stories have played with ideas of scale. Miniature characters roam through colossal worlds while giants stomp over tiny landscapes.

Alice with a bottle labelled 'Drink me'
Illustration from The Nursery Alice. Public Domain.

When Alice in Wonderland sips magic potions, she either shrinks to the size of a mouse or expands until her head hits the ceiling.

Giant Alice
Illustration from the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Public Domain.

In Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, the oldest collection of English nursery rhymes, just 7.5 x 4 cm in size, one snail is the size of a woman’s head.

Woodcut image of a woman in a dress and apron standing in front of a large snail
Image from Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song-Book. Public Domain.

In The Borrowers, the little characters use a teapot for a boat.

The borrowers are standing on an old fashioned kettle which is floating on a stream of water
Original artwork by Diana Stanley for The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. No known copyright restrictions.

Mr Small’s lunch consists of half a pea, one crumb and a drop of lemonade.

Let's write a story

illustrtaion of a person next to a bottle. The bottle is much taller than the person. A speech bubble reads 'how did this happen'

Write a story about being miniature in a massive world.

Imagine you wake up to find you’re the size of a piece of popcorn. How did this happen? How does it feel to move through the enormous wide world?

a cloud of smoke comes out of a bottle. The cloud contains the word 'big small'. The bottle is held by someone so tall that their legs are to the right of the image and they their top half is in the top left side of the image

What powers does your new size give you? What dangers do you encounter? How does your story end?

a very larg pair of legs go out of teh image and a wmaller person stands next to them

Alternatively, write a story in which you’re tall enough to reach the clouds.

What does the miniature world look like from up there? How did you get to be so tall? How will you communicate with other people? What will you have for dinner? Is this a scary story or one that’s pleasant and calming?

Now that you have thought about your story, click on this image to download a free template to help you write your story.

Read more

Quentin Blake's illustrtaion of Roald Dahl's BFG. The BFG is sitting on a rock and holding Sophie up in his hand.

Go deeper: Size and scale in children's books

From miniature people, to towering giants, playing with size and scale add a fun dimension to children’s books!

An adult's hands holding a tiny book, The Infant's Library. It is about the size of the person's thumb.

Themed book list: Big and small

Take a look at some tiny treasures including the earliest collection of nursery rhymes and delve into the worlds of The Borrowers, The BFG and The Smartest Giant in Town.