Young children are naturally concerned with the idea of “bigger,” perhaps because they are often told that they are “not big enough” for some enticing activity that the older kids are doing. The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll is one of many classic children’s story books for the Halloween season that touch on this concept. The newer A Pig is Big by Douglas Florian provides another great jumping off point for explorations in “bigness.” Thinking about what big and bigger mean helps children build the mathematical concept of measurement, particularly the Big Idea that all measurement involves a “fair” comparison.
The Biggest Pumpkin Ever tells the story of “two mice who fell in love with the same pumpkin.” One fed and watered it in the daytime, the other at night; they both wanted to make it grow bigger. The words and pictures offer many opportunities for children to compare the growing pumpkin to itself at earlier stages and to discuss how, for living creatures, time and nurturing care usually lead to getting bigger. Although it is less central, the relative nature of bigness is also part of The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, as the pumpkin eventually gets bigger than the car, then bigger than the house.
A Pig is Big has only a sentence or two on each page, but this short and simple text distills a profound idea about the relativity of size. It starts with the question, “What’s big?” which it answers with, “A pig is big. A pig is fat. A pig is bigger than my hat.” The story might end there, but the author then asks, “What’s bigger than a pig?” A cow, as it turns out, but “What is bigger than a cow?” The comparisons continue with bigger and bigger things being found, until we get to the universe. The soft painted pictures and simple words appeal to very young children, but the idea that size is always relative is one that we continue to explore throughout our lives.