Anna’s life feels like a small thing when she compares it to her friends’ hectic rounds of weekend and after-school activities. Her parents have little money to spare and she doesn’t want to worry them with requests for extras and so, from her self-selected position on the fringes of the group, she listens to her friends’ accounts of their clubs and hobbies instead of joining in. Then one day their teacher, Miss Burnell, talks to the class about Ellie, a new pupil who will be joining them, not in person but by means of a mini-robot , the Ellie-bot, who will sit in classes, relay lessons to Ellie and allow her to participate.
Miss Burnell is clearly an observant and compassionate teacher as she chooses to place the Ellie-bot next to Anna, making her important. However, Anna feels only anxiety-what on earth can she tell Ellie about her life which will be at all interesting? She likes Ellie from the start and wants to impress her and so the stories about imaginary hobbies, clubs and trips begin.
When Anna’s fragile edifice collapses and the truth comes out her friends are initially angry and then forgiving, pointing out that often going to so many classes wears them out, but their parents insist on their attending. Anna’s Mum encourages her to take up her Art work again and she begins to see that her achievements and accomplishments are not so small after all.
When Ellie is allowed to return to school part-time she provides the voice of experience and reason. Her illness has severely curtailed the size of her world and so she has learned to appreciate the small things-the beauty of a sunbeam, the smell of ingredients for a cake. Anna finally understands that it is not how much you do which makes you interesting, but the way you look at the world.
Barrington Stoke consistently publish stimulating and thought-provoking reads, without a hint of condescension. The attractive cover of the book and the charming, characterful illustrations provide support for those readers who may need pictorial clues. The Small Things would be an excellent addition to a junior school library or a valuable class reader.