Create a miniature adventure

Created by Judith Brocklehurst

What will we create today?

An illustrated adventure story, exploring what it would be like to be really small.

You will need:

  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Card
  • Paper
  • Coloured pencils or pens.

You could also use:

  • Digital cameras/iPad (children)
  • Camera, computer, printer (adults)
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Tape.

Let’s start!

Look

For inspiration, we’ll first take a look at stories old and new that play with size and scale.

The Borrowers series (by Mary Norton, illustrated by Diana Stanley) follows the adventures of a 10-cm-tall family who live among the much bigger ‘human beans’.

Colour pencil sketch of the tiny Borrowers, using a teapot as a boat
Original artwork by Diana Stanley for 'The Borrowers' series by Mary Norton. No known rights holder

Some books are so tiny that they fit into the palm of your hand!

A tiny book being held in an adult's hands
Public domain

In Angelina Ballerina (by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig), Mouseland is a world in miniature. Every detail is perfectly scaled down for little mice.

Cross-section of a street and theatre populated by mice
Use for Angelina Ballerina CLASSIC: © c. 1983 Helen Craig Ltd and Katharine Holabird. Angelina Ballerina (Classic and CGI): The Angelina Ballerina name and character and the dancing Angelina logo are trademarks of HIT Entertainment Limited, Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig.

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a story about a kind giant who gives away his clothes to all kinds of animals. His tie becomes a scarf for a giraffe, and his shoe becomes a house for a mouse!

Axel Scheffler's pen sketch of a giant kneeling down in a street, holding a large jumper
Artwork for The Smartest Giant in Town © 2002 Axel Scheffler. Story text by Julia Donaldson. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Plan and make

Close-up of illustration of the Borrowers using a teapot as a boat

1. Imagine what it would be like to be the size of your thumb!


Look at the illustrations for The Borrowers Afloat. What are they using as a boat? Think about how everyday objects can have a completely different use if you are very small.

How difficult would it be to get up onto the chair you are sitting on now?

Photograph of the library in Queen Mary's Doll's House

2. Think of a simple story about your adventures at home or in your school or outdoors.


What would be the challenges? Finding food, getting around, or avoiding large people?

Look at the pictures of Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. Think about how ‘big you’ might behave to ‘little you’.

Storyboard by Axel Scheffler for The Smartest Giant in Town

3. Draw a story board for your adventure.

Look at the way Axel Scheffler has drawn his ideas for The Smartest Giant.

Cutting out photographs of yourself

4. Create a mini you.

On card, draw your mini you in several different poses. Or you could take photographs of each other doing three or four different actions that fit your story board. Then,you could print out the photos onto card. A grown-up might need to help with this stage.

Different cut out figures

5. Cut out your figures.

Cut out your mini you carefully.

The stand for your figure

6. Make your figures stand up


Cut out a card prop and stick onto the back of your figures.

Playing with shadows around your figure

7. Time for the adventure!

Which locations and objects can you use at home, at school or outdoors?

You could set up your mini selves in different locations and sketch or photograph them.

An orange is used to tower above your figure

8. Turn your adventure into a book.

Make drawings of your adventures or print out the series of photos and stick them into a book, along with your written story.

Want to keep exploring? Here are more ideas…

Your figure next to an orange for scale

1. Use the figures to make a film. Stick bamboo skewers on the back instead of props, then move your figures around.

Want to make a soundtrack for the film using everyday objects? See our Story Soundtrack activity below.

Close-up of an illustration of a street and theatre in Angelina Ballerina

2. Make fantastical settings for your mini person to explore. Use drawing, painting or collage. This might be the start of a whole new story!

Look at Angelina Ballerina to see how you might draw a whole building for your figures to live in.

The Infant's Library, a miniature book held in someone's hands

3. Could you make a tiny book for the mini version of you to read?

Look at The Infant’s Library. A small book can make your hands look enormous!

Information for teachers

Key Stage: Key Stage 2

Subject(s): Literacy, IT and Art

Estimated time: 2–3 hours spread over a week, to allow time for photography and printing.

Aim: To create a story based on the premise that the protagonists are all tiny.

Children would draw a storyboard using source material as inspiration. Initially thinking about what the challenges of being very small would be and where the story could take place. This story would then be photographically or hand illustrated by creating a small cut-out version of each child between 5cm and 10cm high (depending on age and manual dexterity). The figures could then be photographed or drawn in different locations/situations. The photographs or drawings could then be glued into a book with an accompanying narrative.

If children are finding it hard to come up with stories, the photography or drawing could be done earlier. Ask children to imagine what it’s like to be tiny, then pose looking up, being scared, running. Use the cut-out images to storyboard different situations, which can then be woven into a narrative.

Learning objectives: Story boarding to map out a visual narrative. Becoming familiar with a combination of analogue and digital technology. Collaboration. Planning ahead.

Teacher involvement: Photographing and printing out images of each child, possibly in more than one in different pose, is time consuming. This could be done in a staggered fashion as the children come up with their story.

 

Image credits

  • Original artwork by Diana Stanley for 'The Borrowers' series by Mary Norton. Images: No known copyright.
  • Use for Angelina Ballerina CLASSIC: © c. 1983 Helen Craig Ltd and Katharine Holabird. Angelina Ballerina (Classic and CGI): The Angelina Ballerina name and character and the dancing Angelina logo are trademarks of HIT Entertainment Limited, Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig.
  • Artworks for The Smartest Giant in Town © 2002 Axel Scheffler. Story text by Julia Donaldson. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
  • Queen Mary's Doll's House. Images: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
  • The Infant's Library: Public Domain

More activities

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Delve into tiny, handmade books by Jacqueline Wilson, Axel Scheffler, Philip Ardagh, Joseph Coelho,Katherine Rundell, Viviane Schwarz and Jane Porter. Then get tips for writing your own mini book from author, S F Said.

Illustration of a large person holding a small bottle. A pink cloud is coming out of the bottle which contains the words 'big and small'

Big and small

Write a story about being miniature in a massive world, or a story in which you’re tall enough to reach the clouds.

A adult's hand holding an open a miniature book

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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.

Photograph portrait of Axel Scheffler inside an illustrated picture frame. To the right of the picture frame are illustrations of pencils, painbrushes, a pencil sharpener with shavings, paint palettes and an eraser. These are on a purple backgroud.

Interview with Axel Scheffler

Learn more about Axel Scheffler’s childhood memories of reading and drawing, and discover how to draw your very own Gruffalo.