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Gleefully bonkers

After a series of unfortunate school-related events, culminating in setting fire to his headteacher’s trousers, Harvey Small’s exasperated mother makes a momentous decision. Harvey is to go to Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants, a curious decision as Harvey is neither gifted nor a giant. Equipped with stilts and a sense of foreboding, Harvey is set to discover that the world is far bigger than grown-ups would have us believe. Welcome to Small! by Hannah Moffatt, a merrily riotous tale shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2023.

Harvey and his mum have recently moved to a new house. Unusually, the house is perched on the edge of a swamp and smells like damp raincoats and ruin. It is, however, in the catchment area for Madame Bogbrush’s boarding school. For Harvey’s harassed and over-worked mother, it offers a potential schooling solution for her spirited son. There’s only one (rather unsettling) catch: giants detest humans. They know them as ‘smalls,’ and top of their school rule book is the edict to catch smalls and ‘stomp them into a sandwich.’ Mum’s inspired response to this is to present Harvey with a pair of stilts. With a bit of practice, he’ll pass as a giant and avoid becoming sandwich filling.

Yes, this book is bonkers, and impish young readers will love Harvey’s adventures at Giant School. Magic and mischief abound within its mountainous mossy walls and there’s only one maths lesson a week! Unfortunately this is countered by the stench of bog broth in the dormitory and the fear of being stomped on.

With terrible timing, the dreaded School Board Inspector also makes an appearance, her arrival coinciding with some unconventional and extremely hazardous goings-on. These she meticulously notes on her clipboard, along with her growing suspicion of the new student with strangely wobbly legs.

Deftly touching on matters of tolerance and acceptance, this giant-hearted book is great fun, complemented by frolicsome illustrations from Rory Walker.

Small! by Hannah Moffatt is published by Everything With Words, 224 pages.

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