Children’s book ‘Big’ explores the impact words can have on young minds

Author and illustrator Vashti Harrison’s first fiction book taps into lived experience and the effects of adultification of children.

By Kristen CabreraNovember 17, 2023 4:32 pm, ,

In the children’s book “Big,” its young protagonist is learning to deal with some really big feelings. Some of those feelings are caused by words and can change meaning and impact over time.

Author and illustrator Vashti Harrison wanted to explore the impact of words and how they pertain to adultification bias, especially when it comes to Black girls. This can be placing ideas and expectations on young children which end up being harmful and stifling.

“At the beginning of the book, the main character hears all of the things that we often say to kids: ‘Oh, you’re such a big girl. You’re a big girl now,'” Harrison said. “And thats a good thing, but it sort of traces how ‘big’ changes meaning over the course of a girl’s life.”

Harrison pulled from her own lived experiences dealing with big feelings and expectations as a young girl.

“I wanted to create a book that might make space for girls to not have to go through many of those feelings and expectations that I felt and I know are present in our culture and in our society,” she said.

Harrison has illustrated other children’s books such as “Sulwe,” authored by Lupita Nyong’o, and “Hair Love,” the book adaptation of the Oscar-winning animated short film where she was also a character designer. She is also the author and illustrator of the award-winning Little Leaders series.

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