Tom Thumb is our teeny-tiny cover star for Storytime Issue 35 and we have a fantastic Tom Thumb Resource Pack to give away too. Get it below!
Alongside Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen (see Storytime Issue 17), Tom Thumb is probably one of the world’s best known diminutive fictional heroes. Or, at least, different versions of Tom Thumb are well known, because this plucky little character exists in cultures all over the world. He has been around for over 400 years.
In Japan, there’s Issun-Boshi, the Inch-High Samurai. In France, there’s Hop o’ my Thumb, who beats an ogre. The Brothers Grimm in Germany wrote about Thumbling. Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, there’s the Hazelnut Child, who wins a diamond from an African king. There are many more.
Tom Thumb’s character, as a subject of superstition, was first in print in 1579, but he made his fairy-tale debut in 1621. It’s likely that this was the first ever printed fairy tale in the UK. Tom stayed small but, as his popularity grew, his adventures became increasingly exciting. In time, he even became a knight in King Arthur’s court.
It’s no surprise that stories with small heroes and heroines should be so popular among children. Kids not only relate to the size of the hero or heroine, they learn valuable lessons in courage, confidence and curiosity. These types of stories say, “Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve big things.” Kids empathise with the hero’s perils and rejoice in his successes. They see life from the hero’s perspective. It’s empowering stuff for little readers – and consequently fires up their imaginations.
Small World Activities
But don’t just read Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. Extend the fun with some small world activities to help you see the world through the eyes of our little fictional heroes. Here are some ideas:
1. Make a whole world in a shoebox (or a bigger cardboard box if you’re feeling ambitious). You could create a room or landscape from one of our stories or invent an imaginary place with whatever buildings or locations you can dream up. What do Tom or Thumbelina need? Our Tom Thumb Resource Pack features room decorations you can print out and use in your world. Download it here.
2. Play with finger puppets and pretend Tom Thumb and Thumbelina are tackling everyday challenges like climbing a flight of stairs, or trying to get a drink of water or eat an apple. How do they get around these problems? Download our printable finger puppets for Tom Thumb.
3. Get down to floor level and imagine what life is like for a miniature character. It could be Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, a mouse or an ant. What obstacles do they have to face? What are the benefits of being small? Can you write a diary – a day in the life of a miniature creature or hero?
4. Visit your local library and read other stories with tiny characters. Try The Borrowers by Mary Norton and Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Proysen. Write your own little hero story – or take Tom Thumb on another adventure!
5. Try our activities in our Tom Thumb Resource Pack. Have a go at some pint-sized poetry, rewrite the story using our Tom Thumb storyboards, play our Bigger or Smaller game, spot Tom Thumb hiding in our picture, make a story map, print out our character mask and act out the story, and do some colouring and drawing.
This week, instead of thinking big, think small. Short stories, small worlds, tiny heroes and little readers!
Let us know if you get up to any of the activities listed here on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you enjoy our Tom Thumb Resource Pack, download more from our Schools website. Plus, if you’re a teacher, we send out additional packs every month to our school subscribers. Contact us to make sure you get yours.
Have teeny, tiny fun!