The Toronto Star:
There are lots of picture books on the theme of "what it was like when you were small, but in this case the mother jumps us into a world of delightful exaggeration. "When I was small," she tells little Henry, "my doll and I wore the same size shoes... I went swimming in the birdbath... I slept in a mitten..." Morstad's fine, delicate drawings enhance this Thumbelina-like fantasy, which plays with the relationship between youth and stature. Morstad's tiny girl with big eyes and bobbed hair evokes a young miss of the 1920s - very stylish.
Quill and Quire Review:
Ever curious Henry, whose enquiries about the recent past formed the basis of Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad’s previous collaborations, When You Were Small and Where You Came From, has another question for his mother, this time asking her for a story about when she was small. Henry’s mother answers with a series of very short, beautifully bizarre anecdotes delivered at the pace of one per page.
The book takes the idea of Henry’s mother being “small” literally – she is pictured skipping rope with a ball of yarn, swimming in a birdbath, and standing on a spool of thread. The dreamy quality of both text and image gives the book a slightly low-energy feel, but it may be the perfect thing for a kid who is just a little quiet, a little shy, but still inquisitive – a child not unlike Henry. The result is a perfect antidote for parents whose retinas have been scorched by too much Dora the Explorer. Small visual details, such as the frequent hand-lettering and the spot illustrations, add to the book’s quiet impact. The framing of the narrative, with Henry’s question at the beginning and his mother’s comments at the end, gives kids something concrete to hang onto throughout.
When I Was Small is not only a charming picture book, but by focusing on the parent’s past instead of the child’s, it also has the potential to be a great conversation starter.
Children, (at least my children, ages five and eight), will take great delight in thischarming little book. The simple, 1950s-style illustrations add to the quirky story that a mother tells her child about when she was, literally, "small." It's fun to see the scenarios she paints about a little girl who wore a daisy for a sun hat, feasted on a single raspberry, lived in a dollhouse and had a ladybug for a best friend.
Montreal Gazette, When I Was Small, by Montreal’s Sara O’Leary (Simply Read Books, 32 pages, $18.95), has nothing to do with letters or books – unless you count the opening page, in which Henry is looking through a photo album, wishing he’d known his parents when they were small. “Tell me a story, he begs his mother. Tell me a story about when you were small, too.” And she does. “When I was small ... my name was Dorothea,” she says. “But because the name was too big for me, everyone called me Dot.” And so it starts, a story that grows progressively more whimsical – and owes a lot of its warmth and whimsy to the wonderful, quirky, scratchy pen-and-ink art of Vancouver’s Julie Morstad. The image accompanying that opening statement by Henry’s mom, for example, shows a class photo that includes a teeny, tiny girl dressed in red. Dot. “When I was small,” she tells Henry as she tucks him into bed for the night, “I couldn’t wait to grow up. Because I knew one day I would have a small boy of my own.” A beautiful book, and perfect companion to Where You Came From (2008) and When You Were Small (2006) by the same author/illustrator team. For ages 3 to 8.
PreS-K—Henry begs his mother for a story about when she was small. What ensues is less a story than a series of one-sentence vignettes about how small she was, literally. She swam in a birdbath, wore a daisy for a sun hat, used yarn as a jump rope, slept in a mitten, had a ladybug for a best friend, etc. It ends with her saying she couldn't wait to grow up and have a boy of her own so she could tell him stories in which they could be small together. On each spread, O'Leary's simple text finds the perfect accompaniment in Morstad's pictures. Using detailed inklike sketches accented with red, yellow, green, blue, etc., surrounded with plenty of white space, the artist has captured the whimsy and warmth inherent in the narrative. Ideal for small storytimes and individual sharing, this beautiful, simple story with engaging illustrations will charm children and adults alike.—Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH
The third of the Henry books (When You Were Small, 2006; Where You Came From, 2008) continues the adorable journey but doesn't veer from the path. Henry wants to know about when his mother was small. She responds by telling him her name was Dorothea, but "because the name was too big for me, everyone called me Dot." The picture on the facing page shows a class of really cute children inked in black and white, an equally cute teacher and Henry's doll-sized mom in bright red. She went swimming in the birdbath, could "feast on a single raspberry" and wore a daisy for a sunhat. The text for each spread floats on a pure white page, and on the opposite page Morstad's beautiful, clear drawings characterized by the spot use of color float on the same white space. The endpapers are full of similarly fanciful images of tiny Dot standing under a toadstool, leaping over a daisy or sporting butterflies as headgear. "In stories we can be small together," his mother says, ending this quiet mother-and-son idyll. Winsome. (Picture book. 4-7)