I think everyone knows what it’s like to feel tiny. Maybe, like me, you waited around for a late high school growth spurt, only to find it leaving you at 5’2 (if they invent time travel, please tell my nine-year-old self that she can shelve that copy of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret for another decade or so, and also that those exercises don’t work). Even if you aren’t physically small, you’ve probably been the least-accomplished person in your grad school classes, or the new guy at work. If you’ve always felt both full-sized and adequate, that’s very nice but you can stop reading and go back to self-actualizing and exceeding expectations and knowing what’s on the top shelf of your cupboard; we’re done here.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a big star – the focus of three YouTube videos and two books – who knows a thing or two about being tiny. The Marcel videos have garnered millions of YouTube views; the third video, posted yesterday, is edging up on a million hits already. A big factor in his success is that while most of us are not sneaker-wearing mollusks, we all know what it’s like to feel small. I mean, except for those large, successful people who we dismissed in the first paragraph. But that little shell is so self-assured and confident, and doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry that he can’t nibble on cheese without experiencing a cholesterol event, or that his sister Marissa took an ill-fated journey on a balloon.
Sure, Marcel has a few setbacks. He has to deal with the idiots of the sea (shrimps), wishes he had a dog (although lint is a shell’s best friend), and longs for a nickname (don’t we all? I finally got one in college, but it was Smalls, and I tried telling everyone that it was stupid, but I don’t think they could hear me because my tiny voice died out before it floated up to their ears). And he fears his household Bichon, who, like so many Bichons before him, has a distinctive face-smell and only cares about snoozin’ and treats. But Marcel handles everything in a matter-of-fact way, with these little bursts of confidence. It reminds you that moments of tininess are a part of the human experience (and shell experience as well?) that you can acknowledge without shame, because everyone’s been there. Except those buffoons from paragraph one.
But while adults feel small some of the time, children feel small all of the time. Do you have children in your family? You can’t buy their love, but you also don’t need to. The three Marcel shorts are free on YouTube. Marcel is my nieces’ and nephews’ favorite thing ever. I know you aren’t supposed to get small children to calm down by sticking them in front of a screen, but frankly they aren’t my children and these videos work better than anything else I’ve tried. Marcel videos have defused so many grumpy kid moments, and garnered me so much Fun Aunt status, that I think I owe Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp some kind of Edible Arrangement or cookie bouquet. And for Marcel, a single cherry cordial that he could work his way through over the course of several holiday seasons.
Even better, if you know children or were one once, Marcel is the star of two fantastic children’s books. The first, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me, has the nephew seal of approval: I bought it for Hank’s fourth birthday in July and he’s nearly worn it out. The second, The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been, hits bookstores today. The first book, at least, is also available as an audiobook if your Marcel voice isn’t up to par. As I start to realize that my favorite childhood books were about self-important jerks like Amy March and creepy church hags like Marilla Cuthbert, it always feels nice when you find picturebooks that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Weirdly specific selling point: Things About Me is hand-lettered in a spidery curlicue script. This means that you get to read the book out loud to kids who are independent readers but haven’t learned cursive yet. After kids learn to read there are fewer and fewer chances to read aloud to them, but it’s good for them. And for you: makes you feel big, makes them feel small, which – Marcel would tell you – isn’t so bad.