The Small Things by Lisa Thompson is a story that displays this author’s understanding of children and their worries and at the same time encourages them to accept themselves for who are they are rather than who they think others expect them to be. A kind and empathetic book that is full of wisdom.
Anna is not unhappy at school yet she always feels slightly on the edge of her group of friends. Their lives sound so exciting and shy Anna believes she has little to contribute to their chatter of hobbies and interesting outings thinking herself small and dull by comparison. Then things take an unexpected turn when a new girl, Ellie, joins Anna’s class and her teacher selects Anna to be the new girl’s partner. This is not as straightforward as it sounds for Ellie is unwell and unable to attend school in person so participates via a robot. Slowly Anna starts to build a friendship with Ellie answering her questions about school and her family. But in an effort to keep up with her classmates and impress Ellie Anna does not tell the truth about her weekend activities and then it becomes difficult to escape from the embellished stories she tells Ellie and impossible for her to confess and tell the truth. Anna fears her lies will be exposed and worries that her new friendship will not survive.
There will be many children who will identify with Anna and recognise those feelings of inadequacy, discomfort and lack of self confidence. It takes maturity and a certain amount of resilience to learn to accept that you don’t have to compete with others to be of value. There are many important themes in this compassionate story and one of the most valuable is that it is the “small things” that matter most. Being kind, thoughtful and loyal, making the most of your own talents, skills and interests and recognising that expensive possessions and outings are not the way to make true friendships are valuable life lessons. Through the storyline the reader sees that Anna’s family is a loving one and their relationships are tenderly portrayed by Lisa Thompson.
The story is inspired by a true event and the author’s note provides more background on this. The use of a robot controlled by a child, as is made possible by technology created by the company, No Isolation, would be a fascinating topic for discussion in the classroom particularly in light of children’s experiences of online education during the pandemic. It would also raise awareness of how some children have to adapt to this form of learning.
Lisa Thompson is adept in capturing the voice of a child and understanding those worries that matter to them and written a story that will comfort and encourage young readers. This is an enjoyable read but one full of sympathetic guidance too.
The Small Things is published by Barrington Stoke on 3rd June and is illustrated throughout by a Hannah Coulson. Presented in this publisher’s usual accessible format it has a reading age of 8+. I should like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copy. The Small Things can be purchased online at Bookshop.org There are also teaching resources to download here.