Little by Little Critical Essays

Jean Little


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Acknowledging that her biography, if not always factual, is always truthful, Little capably evokes the fears, desires, and joys of her childhood. Vowing primarily to record the emotions she recalled so vividly from her youth, she succeeds admirably in her task. Consequently, children, young adults, and even older adults will find her book a delight. In her sensitive hands, Little by Little is not a narrowly narcissistic story of a blind girl and her troubles. Rather, it is the universal story of children learning to survive in a world where people can be cruel as well as compassionate and kind.

Moreover, Little’s book is the tale of a child learning to accept and appreciate her individuality. Like most children, she spent her youth trying to conform and was frequently disappointed by the insensitivity of other children, who insulted and ostracized her because she was different. As she got older and learned to accept her differences, however, she located the friends that she had always sought. In the process, she developed the ability to laugh at herself.

Indeed, reader interest is maintained by Little’s sense of humor. She tells a charming tale, for example, of her participation in a basketball game. When her college friends were faced with forfeiting their championship game because of a member’s illness, Little volunteered to be the substitute player. To the chagrin of the opposition, and the referee who fruitlessly searched for a rule excluding blind players, she stood motionless on the court while the match was played around her. In the final seconds, with the scored tied, she caught a ball that came directly to her—indeed, it was the...

(The entire section is 687 words.)