The Big O

March 14, 2018

The Big O

No, not the sexy word, I’m talking about the children’s book, The Missing Piece Meets the BIG O, by Shel Silverstein.

And now, I’ve made it awkward to transition into children’s books. Good job, Cindy.

Last week, I listened to a podcast featuring my friend Anna Skates, who recommended wisely, that we as adults, should be spending time reading children’s books. Because my children are almost teen/teenager, it’s been several years since I’ve read children’s books out loud to them, even though it was one of my most enjoyable times of parenting that season. Also, I thought it would be interesting to read children’s books as an adult, and appreciating children’s lit for myself, instead of reading it for children. Words and stories that are true ought to transcend age. 

So I had my kids check out several children’s books from the school library. Gruffalo was so cute and I read it out loud to enjoy the rhymes. I wonder if rhymes have been studied to ease anxiety, it’s so satisfying. It gives such a feeling of completion—when the corresponding rhyme comes around, it’s like a finishing touch to garnish a dinner, or a neat bow on a package. Ish was affirming to read as a writer/creator, instead of conforming to societal standards of what things are, we can create ish-ly.. It’s an antidote to the Imposter Syndrome. Can’t quite bring yourself to call yourself a writer? Well, be a writer-ish.

But The Missing Piece and the Big O was my favorite out of the pile, because oh my goodness, it’s a beautifully poignant story about belonging and growth and wholeness. I marveled at how these transcendent themes about humanity and relationships were communicated through black and white, simplistic figures and very few words.

It’s a story about a Missing Piece that’s triangular shaped, looking for an O to fit into so that the O can roll. But it struggled, because some fit but did not roll, others didn’t fit at all, and yet others were too delicate, too broken, or too nosy. The Missing Piece tried to change itself but it didn’t work. It still didn’t fit. Finally, an O came along that was a perfect fit, and the Missing Piece found home.

But then, it grew. And it no longer fit.

“I didn’t know you were going to grow.”
“I didn’t know it either,” said the missing piece.

The missing piece went back to being alone. Another O came along, the Big O. The missing piece asked if it fit into the Big O, but the Big O was confounded by the question because the Big O wasn’t missing a piece. “Well, do you need something from me?” “No, I don’t need anything.”

The missing piece told the Big O its dilemma, and Big O was like, why do you need to fit into anything else in order to roll, just roll by yourself. The thought had never occurred to the missing piece, who had sharp edges, not conducive to rolling.

Then one day, it tried. And it tried again. And the edges smoothed out and eventually, the missing piece began rolling, all by itself.


The lesson I’ve had to learn through years and years of painful longing, unnecessary angst to make myself pleasing to others, to find the shape of who I am in order to thrive as my authentic self, was delivered so incisively in this children’s book.

It made this 40 year old woman’s heart soar.

Orson Scott Card says, “…never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along—the same person that I am today.”

The children, and their books, are not so distant as the world would divide us. I’m so grateful to Anna, for giving me the push to enter into the world of children’s lit, and showing me that putting on the lens of our children can transform us, just as much as we can offer them our perspective.

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