Why do you have a big nose?

Why does that man have such a big nose?Why does that man have such a BIG NOSE?

This interesting little paperback showed up and at first I couldn’t figure out what the title meant.  This picture book asks a question and gives an accompanying picture to help children process people that are different. Nice idea, poor execution.  By the way, we have this one for sale in our Ebay store.  I am sure it would make a lovely gift for a special librarian in your life.


The verso had this question about the woman pictured below and strangely enough the answer is not “this woman is a fashion criminal”.



funny clothes

skin is dark

why is his skin dark

little person

  1. Is “big nose” here meant to evoke “nosiness” into things that are generally “none of your business” (like these subjects)?

    I find it interesting they positively assert that “you know you will grow taller” right after the remark about you might be a dwarf if your parent(s) were.

  2. Yes, right, this rates a “less offensive than the title would suggest.” Although the description of the Little Person is “problematic”.

    One reason I like the book is that my husband is blind, and he gets questions all the time from children who apparently have been taught that handicapped people exist so you can ask them questions. This is a much better alternative.

  3. I actually think this is a good book. It’s a little old, but still good. The cover could have been better though.

  4. What was the answer about the guy with the big nose? Reminds me of my dad. He and my Grandpa both have big noses (family trait) and he’s always saying that my nose will follow suit one day. He said it would happen when I turned 20, then it was 25, then 30, and now 35. Hasn’t happened yet. 🙂

  5. It seems that, by 1986 standards, that woman’s clothes were considered fairly trendy! Although, I guess if the kids reading this book were raised in a small town or insulated suburb and didn’t have an older sister reading Seventeen magazine, they might not be exposed to funkier clothing.

  6. I think the word “dwarf” in relationship to anyone that isn’t in a fantasy novel is now on the outs…
    I believe the prefered term is “little person” although these change quickly.

  7. I would think the question for the page 15 person would be “why is that man wearing women’s clothes?”

  8. we had this book! i think it’s a big part of why my brother and i grew up to be so polite. it’s all the inappropriate questions kids really want to ask, in a nice book you can read at home where nobody has to overhear. a few years ago, i was getting on the bus with a friend, and she observed at the top of her lungs “WOW, THAT LADY IS REALLY SHORT!” and all i could think was “i guess she didn’t read ‘why does that man have such a big nose?’ as a kid.”

  9. Seems like it has a good point, really. Too many people still ask those kinds of questions in front of people. “Why are you so short?” “Why is your baby a different color than you?” “What’s wrong with your daughter?” “Why are you walking like that?” Maybe we need that book in every library.

  10. The black-and-white pictures and no-longer-PC language makes this a weeder, but I agree it’s a good concept. One does cringe a bit reading the questions, but one cringes more than a little bit when one’s child asks a question like that in a loud, carrying voice in line at the grocery store. I can see how a book like this might help avoid that experience.

    …on the other hand, it could lead to the child saying, “That man has dark skin because his parents have dark skin!” or “that man is short because his body stopped growing!” in a loud, carrying voice in line at the grocery store, much like how children who are proud of having just learned the difference between boys and girls are fond of announcing things like, “That lady has a vagina! That man has a penis!” in public places. I’m honestly not sure whether that would be an improvement.

  11. This would have saved my mom some trouble when I was 3 or 4 and completely mortified her in a store… luckily the “little person” was very nice and explained it to me.

  12. I don’t know…maybe my kids are either 1) very polite, or 2) raised in an area where any of the above are not unusual! But, I can’t imagine them wondering why someone had a big nose, or had dark skin, or was short, etc. We live in a large suburban area in CA and our neighborhood homes, stores, schools, parks etc. have all of the above! Some are even members of my own family! It is part of life in a diverse area. I guess I should be grateful for that. I didn’t even notice anything odd about the woman’s clothing! Her hair was a bit 80s, but the rest is pretty normal, at least around here! I wonder why books always have kids wondering why people have “dark” skin, and never wonder why they have “light” skin? I have never liked these sorts of books. In the mid 90s I took some college courses for childhood developement. They taught to teach the kids about diversity. Kids don’t need differences pointed out to them, then they see them as “differences” and had never before given them a thought. Once they are “taught” about them, they do. I also had a problem with the criticisms of books like Pat the Bunny, featuring blonde, blue eyed children. Some children are blonde and blue eyed! My youngest two are. People try too hard. Kids are more accepting and tolerant by nature than adults. Just my opinion!

  13. Now adays they can just watch things like Little People, Big World. (They use the term “dwarf”, BTW.)

    In all seriousness, I haven’t heard a “Mommy why is….” in a long time – but judging from the replies above they still ask that. Now I have heard kids ask of little boys with long hair “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” and if I wear something with an empire waist kids ask their mom if I’m pregnant. (Nope, just fat, and style books claim empire waists make fat women look thinner. They lied.)

  14. I remember a time when my daughter was maybe 4 and she was standing in line next to a little girl whose skin color was different. She turned to me and loudly said “Mommy that girl is…” I interrupted her and whispered “we don’t make comments about people” and she told me “I was just going to say that that little girl is pretty.” Ouch.

  15. I do not believe this book would have helped my mother the day I screamed out “It’s a witch!” in the middle of the supermarket. Mom says the nun was really nice about it.

  16. A piece of family lore: My brother, before or just after I was born, enters an elevator and encounters a bald man. He exclaims, “That man looks like Charlie Brown!!!”

    Poor guy. :/

  17. Lisa’s comments are right. Remember the song from “South Pacific”? It has a couple of lines that say, “You’ve got to be taught, berfore it’s too late / To hate all the people your relatives hate; / You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

  18. My library has this book. I did a double-take when I first saw it on display about a year ago, and HAD to read it. Turns out it wasn’t as outrageous as the title suggested it might be.

    Here’s a 1986 review of the book courtesy of School Library Journal:

    K-Gr 3 A collection of short descriptions of some people who are physically “different” from others. Each description contains a photograph of the person, a brief paragraph about how he or she is different, and a related question or activity, such as “Look at your parents and see if you can guess how tall you will grow to be.” The subjects include a man with a beard, a heavy woman, a black man, a dwarf, and two handicapped men. The introductory note states that the book was written to help parents and teachers answer questions about differences and is meant to be a springboard to discussions. However, the variety of subjects selected is too broad and the explanations too simplistic. Questions about physical differences can be answered honestly without the aid of this book, and if one needs to explain about handicaps it is better to deal with them in more depth.

    Margaret C. Howell, Cameron Elementary School, Fairfax County, Va. Copyright 1986 Cahners Business Information.

  19. I had a very mortified mother once apologise exhaustively to me after a quiet whispered conversation between her two children suddenly resulted in the girl pointing at me and declaring loudly, “No, it’s a girl! See, it has a purse!”

    I pretty much just cracked up, actually.

  20. The tiltle reminds me of a Troy McClure film called “Mommy, What’s Wrong With That Man’s Face?”

  21. When my sister was a teenager, she lost her hair from chemotherapy treatment for bone cancer (fortunately she’s fine now, 15 years later.) We were at the beach with some friends; Kay was wearing a wig, but finding it itchy. By this time she’d gotten used to people surruptitiously looking at her, trying to work out why she looked wrong (pencil-only eyebrows, no eyelashes) and it didn’t bother her too much. What she didn’t like, though, was the idea that it was something she should feel ashamed about.
    Anyway, we were on the pier, and Kay lifted her wig a little to scratch her scalp where the wig was itching. A little girl, maybe four or five, was absolutely astonished, and told her mother in a loud, carrying voice ‘Mummy! That lady can take her hair off!’
    Cue mother taking in Kay’s lack of hair, realising the situation – and instantly hushing her daughter, with ‘you don’t say personal things like that in public!’ and the like.
    Now, Kay didn’t have any issue with what the child said; she’d never seen anyone wearing a wig before and was surprised by it. But it was the mother’s reaction that really annoyed Kay; instead of quietly explaining that the lady was wearing a wig, the mother had made it into something shameful not to be talked about. Kay’s response was to watch them, and every time the mother looked away, Kay would lift her wig up and make a silly face, reducing the girl into fits of the giggles. It’s hard to think hair falling out from chemotherapy is something to be ashamed of when the person with the wig refuses to be upset or embarrassed by it.
    I actually don’t have any issue with this book. Too many people don’t know how to handle those questions publically, and this does kind of cut it off at the pass. And for many ‘different’ people, it’s not the question that’s offensive, especially from small children, it’s the idea that it’s an issue to be dealt with, or something embarrassing to be ignored.

  22. I don’t find the title as “outrageous” as some of the commentators do. It actually struck me as a potentially avant guard book because it sounded so random–is it meant to imply the man is Jewish? In any case, I had no clue what it was about. I did find the questions and depictions in it rather disturbing, however, especially with regard to how they position the reader (white, presumably conservative, middle class) as a normative category to which these ‘others’ are deviations. I understand why people find merit in it, and I actually find the book to be potentially a tool for adults more than children, because the answers are (for the most part) rather neutral, but I am open to challenges

  23. I did not like the page that says ‘everyone has pigment.’ Those with albinism do not, and for a book talking about difference, this should not have been missed. I guess an albino child could not be an audience for this, because they most likely do not look like their parents, are not like ‘everyone’ else, and cannot engage in thinking abnout which parent they look most like.

    Also, the ‘dwarf’ title bothered me, but it could have been a proper term at the time. However, I felt the tone of ‘you will grow, nbut they never will was a little harsh.

    I was looking for a book to engage with students with disabilities, and it seems this is the worst book I could bring in. It assumes the audience is all average. (will outgrow a dwarf, has pigment, etc.)