PBS Books is pleased to host a conversation with New York Times bestselling author and award-winning creator Vashti Harrison, who recently wrote and illustrated “BIG.” This program is offered to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, promoting self-love, self-acceptance, and self-empowerment for the young and the young-at-heart. Join us to learn about the story and Vashti’s creative process, hear Vashti read an excerpt of her book, and learn about the importance of self-love.
AUTHOR: VASHTI HARRISON
Vashti Harrison is the #1 New York Times bestselling creator of Little Leaders, Little Dreamers, and Little Legends and the illustrator of Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe, Matthew Cherry’s Hair Love, Andrea Beaty’s I Love You Like Yellow, and Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic’s Hello, Star, among others. She earned her BA in studio art and media studies from the University of Virginia and her MFA in film/video from CalArts, where she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Vashti lives in Brooklyn, New York, and invites you to visit her at vashtiharrison.com or on Instagram and Twitter @vashtiharrison.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Vashti is the #1 New York Times bestselling creator of Little Leaders, Little Dreamers, and Little Legends and the illustrator of Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe, Matthew Cherry’s Hair Love, Andrea Beaty’s I Love You Like Yellow, and Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic’s Hello, Star, among others. BIG was named one of BookPage’s Most Anticipated children’s book of the season and has received three starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and The Horn Book. Vashti recently graced the cover of Publishers Weekly and CBS Saturday Morning profiled Vashti to celebrate her work, Black History Month, and preview BIG.
This is a deeply personal story for Vashti—rooted in her own experiences as a child sitting in the crosshairs of adultification bias and anti-fat bias, struggling to find self-acceptance. She writes in her author note, “In childhood, big is good. Big is impressive, aspirational. But somewhere along the way, the world begins to tell us something different: That big is bad. That being big is undesirable…My size indicated to adults that I was big enough to know better, even though I was still just a kid. I learned that day that my body did not fit. It did not belong. And adults no longer saw me as a little girl who could make innocent mistakes.” There is a dual message within this text: first, this is a story about size, yes, but not just in the body-image context; it also addresses how “big” kids—especially Black children—are often treated as if they are older than they are. And then beyond size, it shows how words affect young children and can shape their image of themselves before they’ve even had a chance to figure out who they are.
Filled with truth, beauty, joy, and acceptance, this is a tour de force. Vashti traces a child’s journey to self-love and shows the power of words to both hurt and heal. With spare text and exquisite illustrations, this emotional exploration of being big in a world that prizes small is a tender portrayal of how you can stand out and feel invisible at the same time. A story whose seeds are from Vashti’s own childhood, this will be an important book for so many—anyone who is misunderstood as well as any adult who wants to understand how to be truly accepting and supportive. While it will resonate with many, young Black girls will especially find a story and character they might see themselves in.