In this ambitious debut, Dyer strives to explicate the relationship between small things and big impacts.

“My favorite things…are little things,” a child in red dress and matching red hair bow narrates in the opening pages. From page to page, “little things” can mean either concrete items—from rocks through berries and seeds to stars (which are not exactly little)—or abstract ideas (light and shadow) or, finally, in the closing spreads, actions, such as a helping hand. It is these vague and shape-shifting examples of “little things” that leave readers confused for much of the book. Pousette’s detailed and dreamlike mixed-media paper-cut shadowbox illustrations are enchanting, but they do little to unmuddle the text and sometimes even confuse it further. One spread in which the child, who has brown skin, samples a “yummy” strawberry then plants some seeds and then is shown walking among “humongous,” long-stemmed flowers is striking but so fanciful it further muddies the concept of “little things.” Still, several strong passages and accompanying illustrations—especially a striking three-page foldout spread that details the protagonist’s discovery of two fawns that become “great big” deer “eventually”—are indicative of what this convoluted picture book could be had more discipline been given to refining the big idea it tries to convey.

Pretty and well-meant but unsuccessful. (Picture book. 4-8)

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