Name of Book: The Tallest of Smalls
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Maria Monescillo
Publisher: Tommy Nelson: A Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers
Audience: Ages 4 – 10 (but could be used with middle schoolers)
Summary: The Tallest of Smalls is the story of a young boy named Ollie. Ollie lives in the land of Stilts. In the land of Stilts, each evening at six, the Stiltsvillians gather at the town circle to find out who will be chosen—the clever and funny, the awesome and pretty, the special and cool, the better and best—to put on some stilts and strut high above those down in the rut. At last Ollie is chosen, but his time in the sky is short lived and ends quite embarrassingly. All is a disaster; that is until Jesus chooses Ollie to walk another way, with his feet on the ground!
Literary Elements at Work: Max Lucado cleverly uses two dominant literary elements in this story: words that rhyme and clear contrasts: small versus tall, up high opposite down low, cool differing from shy, common and dull dissimilar to the gang of the cool. The use of rhyming words moves the story along in a seemingly fun and engaging way, that is until the reader/hearer slowly becomes aware that this is an all too familiar tale of exclusion. Who hasn’t been left out of a group? The last chosen for teams? The only girl in the group? The only Christian? The only African American? Who hasn’t left someone out of a group? The use of strong and clear contrasts, in some instances opposites, makes the distinctions quite vivid. Some are cool; some are not. Some are smart; some are not. Some are in; some are not. Maria Monescillo’s illustrations are bright, colorful, off center and quite quirky! Using perspective, Ms. Monescillo draws the eye way up high when Ollie and the other Stiltsvillians are way down. Each evening at six, the viewpoint is bearing down from on high. In addition to the plight of the Stiltsvillians down low, the animals in town are treated with notable concern. There are dogs or cats, birds or chicks, pigs or roosters on nearly every page. These creatures are usually pictured alongside the down lows. Max Lucado and Maria Monescillo make a delightful team in telling this story.
Scripture: Adapted from Genesis 1
In the beginning the earth was formless and void and God said, “Let there be light and sky, moon, stars, and sun, fruit trees and vegetation, great sea monsters and winged birds, cattle and creeping things and wild beasts.” And there was; and it was good. Then God said, “Let us create humankind in our image.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And God rested…
Jonah 4: 11 “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Isaiah 43 selected verses “Thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Adapted from Matthew 10 Jesus summons his twelve; gives them authority to cast out unclean spirits, cure every disease and sickness; and sends them out with these instructions: go to the lost sheep, proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. (NRSV)
Theology: God creates the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and calls them good and blesses them and commands them to be fruitful and multiply. God creates humankind in the image of God and calls us, together with all creation, very good and blesses us and commands us to be fruitful and multiply. Additionally, humanity is charged to, what professor Ellen Davis at Duke Divinity School calls, “exercise skilled mastery” over all creation. And yet we build barriers: black versus white, male versus female, rich versus poor, oppressor versus oppressed, gay versus straight, liberal versus conservative, thin versus fat, young versus old. The list goes on and on. And still Jesus calls. Jesus calls us to break down barriers that divide and to build up shalom, peace. Peace: financial security, emotional well-being, spiritual well-being, physical well-being, humankind living in well-being with all creation. What God has called good, we cannot dismiss, ignore, exploit, destroy.
Faith Talk Questions:
Sit down beside your child, let him hold the book and turn the pages. Ask him to point to those up high and those down low, those who are shy and those who are cool. Ask: what about the illustration tells us that she or he is cool? What about the illustration tells us that he or she is shy? What do you notice about the animals in this town? Are they up high? Are they down low? In the story, Jesus tells Ollie to “refuse to be stilted; choose low over high; leave the system tip-tilted.” What does that mean? What do we do when the Bible tells us one thing (that we are created, formed, called, loved, honored by God and precious to God), and the world tells us something else (that we are not honored, valued, precious, loved, called)? Does that mean God does not love you? Form you? Call you? Honor you? That you are not precious to God? Wait for responses. LISTEN to what your child thinks. What do we do when the Bible tells us that God calls light and sky, moon, stars, and sun, fruit trees and vegetation, great sea monsters and winged birds, cattle and creeping things and wild beasts trees good and blesses them, and the world tells us that we can do whatever we want to to the earth and all the plants, trees, and creatures that live upon it? Does that mean that God is not concerned about the animals? Say, “God creates, forms, loves and calls all people all the time because you and I and they are precious in God’s sight!” Say a prayer thanking God for all those that God forms and loves and calls. Say a prayer of intercession for those who hear so often from the world, “NO; you cannot!” What did Jesus say? What can we do? Who and what does God love, form, call, honor? Who and what is precious in God’s sight? Who and what is God concerned about today? How can we help?
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Kim Lee
The Tallest of Smalls by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.