Ten Tiny Things

Written by Meg McKinlay
Illustrated by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Fremantle Press, 2012

Ages 4+

It was a red thing. It was a sparkly thing.
It was a tiny, tiny thing

Tessa and Zachary have a machine that is swift and splendiferous. Every day it carries them from here to there and back again in cool calm comfort. But one morning, the machine breaks down. Tessa and Zachary are forced to venture into the world beyond its metal walls – a place of secret somethings and hidden happenings. Getting from here to there may never be the same …

What Readers Are Saying:

‘I love everything about this book, the theme, the alliterative and well-sculptured language, and the colour scheme used in the illustrations as well as the innovative illustrative style … Highly Recommended’
– Liz Derouet, Magpies

‘This is a lovely tale by Meg McKinlay with brilliant illustrations by artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers … Ten Tiny Things will certainly be treasured by younger readers.
Andrew Wrathall, Books+Publishing

‘gorgeously-crafted and a delight to read. Illustrations by Kyle Hughes-Odgers are strikingly different and as enticing as chocolate … A must-own – not only for its beauty, but for its subtle and important messaging.’
– Tania McCartney, Kids’ Book Capers

 Awards

  • Winner, 2013 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award
  • Shortlisted, 2013 Environment Award for Children’s Literature

Resources

Download teachers’ notes.

Themed craft activities, courtesy of My Little Bookcase.

Interview with Kinderling Kids Radio

Visit – or contribute to – the Ten Tiny Things Blog.

Behind the Story

The idea for this book comes from a game I used to play with my daughter, which has its roots in my own childhood. I grew up without a car and had to walk or ride my bike to get to most places I wanted to go; this forced me to move slowly through the world and turned me into something of a wanderer. We lived near the bush and I was always off roaming and exploring. And even when I was in the city, I found myself observing, heading down secret laneways, climbing up staircases to see what was at the top. Sometimes this got me into trouble. But it was always interesting. I’ve always thought the best way to know a place is to walk and walk and walk it as much as possible.

So even when I grew older and started driving, I kept walking. And I wanted my daughter to do the same. I wanted to share with her the value of slowing down, of taking time, of being in the world rather than just moving through it on the way to somewhere.

So we would take walks around the neighbourhood and without really thinking about it, I would point things out, as I’m sure all parents do. Oh, look at that shiny thing. Come and stamp in this puddle. Look, someone wrote their name on the footpath. Is that a bird’s nest up there? And somewhere along the way it turned into a game, which we called “Things We Would Never Have Seen If We Had Been Driving”. The first person to reach ten interesting things was the winner. Though we would often become so interested in the things we were noticing that we would lose count or forget to declare a winner anyway.

We had been playing this game for several years before my writer’s brain finally switched on and realised there might be a book in there somewhere. It was around the time I had been on the receiving end of some odd remarks from other mothers over letting my daughter walk home from school (whether with me or alone) because it was ‘so far’ and it was ‘so hot’, and perhaps that’s why I decided to embed the broader idea in a ‘walking to school’ narrative.

Ten Tiny Things is about many things. On the surface, you might say it’s about walking to school, or about ‘choosing active transport’, as the buzzwords go. While those things are certainly important, I think what the story has to say is much broader than that. For me, it’s about slowing down. It’s about being mindful or ‘awake’ to the moment and the world around you. It’s about noticing the small, wonderful things that lurk in every corner if we only turn our heads to notice them. In the story, those things are tangible, but they don’t necessarily have to be. The principle is the same whether we’re talking about tiny mosaic ladybugs in the footpath, or a lilting note from a busker’s violin, or an arresting image painted in a rundown laneway by a guerilla street artist.

I think once we slow down and shut out some of the empty noise that accumulates around us, we make space for those small moments. They become first visible, and then vivid. They start to make their own beautiful noise. So that’s what lies at the heart of the story for me.

Dinofootprint  concrete leaf DucksIMG_4267 Footpath

[images are from the Ten Tiny Things blog, for which contributions are welcome]