a list of…five books for big brothers and sisters

In our family, each new baby’s arrival was a happily anticipated event.  Curiously, many picture books seem to focus on the stormy emotions of welcoming another child.  Here are five great stories spotlighting the joys (and a few woes) of being the older sibling.

Annie Rose is My Little Sister, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

When searching for warm family stories, there’s just no one like Shirley Hughes.

Here is Alfie’s narration of his role as big brother to Annie Rose.  It moseys through the gentle and ordinary bits of their days together, such as looking at books or playing hide and seek.  It ambles among  bed time routines, and the jolly store the two of them pretend at outdoors.  It peeks at several perturbing parts of life with Annie Rose, yet shines with Alfie’s love for her throughout.  We feel his glow of pride in being the big brother, and the happy comfort he takes in knowing that the two of them will go on being brother and sister “even until we’re grown up.”

Alfie’s delightful narration is accompanied by Hughes’ incredible watercolors of these sturdy, charming, children from seaside to mussy bedroom, tantrum to snuggle-pile.  Hughes is the queen of postures — every page delights us with comfortable, true-to-life scenes to pore over, dearly familiar in their sweet ordinariness.  As usual, my favorite children’s author has gifted us with a lovely, warm-hearted story, perfect for preschoolers.

Another Brother, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Davy is a sheep.  The first-born son of Mom and Dad Sheep.  As such, he happily commands their full attention and admiration in his early lamby days.  Things are going along swimmingly until…

…Davy gets a brother.  This little brother is definitely an intruder, muddling up Davy’s center stage position.  Worse yet, that little brother is followed rapidly by…eleven more brothers!!  Brothers who look up to Davy so much, they copy his every word and move.  So tiresome!  Davy’s parents assure him that some day these twelve little brothers will find their own way and leave him alone.  And lo and behold, they are right.  Seemingly overnight, Davy’s star status is over.  The brothers are far too busy doing their own thing to give hero-worship to Davy anymore.  Suddenly, Davy feels mighty…alone.  That big brother role is looking pretty peachy now.  What’s Davy to do?

This 2012 creation by Matthew Cordell is packed with humor and affection.  Davy is a highly sympathetic character.  We gloat and groan with him; we feel the heady solo days, the annoying cram of a dozen brothers, as well as his abrupt loneliness.  The storyline bops along with zesty details packed into few words,  leaving much of the telling to Cordell’s hilarious pen and ink sheep, highlighted with just the right swish of watercolor.  A brilliant sense of mayhem rollicks on every page.  Great choice, especially for big brothers!

One Special Day, written by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve

One more “big brother” volume.  This one features Spencer, an all-out snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails sort of boy.  At the outset, we see Spencer in a hug-pile with his mom and dad, who then drive merrily off.  Hmm….where could they be going?  No time to ponder that, though.  Spencer’s bursting with energy, ready to have an wonderfully active day in the great out-of-doors.

The pages of this story simply introduce us to Spencer.  As he runs, climbs, hollers, and cavorts, we find out about him in a playful, interactive way.  A two-page spread tells us, for example, that “he was strong.” Turning the page, we read, “strong as a…” but we’re left to fill in the rest of that phrase ourselves, with help from an illustration of a rumbly, fuzzy-brown bear, slurping up sticky, golden honey.   And so it goes, with young readers accumulating insight into this fast, loud, wild boy.

Until… Mom and Dad return with a tiny, swaddled newborn .  On that day, Spencer leaves his rambunctious ways behind (at least momentarily) and becomes quiet and gentle.  Because now, Spencer is a brother.

Great fun for small fry to fill in the blanks of these familiar similes.  Spencer is a likable boy, and Meserve’s digital oil pastels  — bold and bursting with energy — dispel any notion of sappiness, even when Spencer sits quietly with the baby on his lap.

This Baby, by Kate Banks, pictures by Gabi Swiatkowska

A little girl and her mom are awaiting their new baby in this book, which hums with a much more feminine vibe.  There are two streams to the storyline which ripple together through the pages:  brief, poetic glimpses of the growth of this tiny person in mother’s womb, and thoughtful, curious questions about what this little newcomer will like in his or her new world.

Beginning with a baby who is just “a tiny bud of life” we hear snatches of expectant, tender descriptions of her unseen world, fluttering, listening, kicking, turning, growing until there is hardly any room for her in those dark quarters.  While baby is being knit together on the inside, Mama passes the time knitting with yarn in her snug house, and her little girl gauges the passing of time and arrival of the baby by how long it’s taking Mama to knit that blankie.   “Knit, Mama, knit,” she urges, as she watches seasons pass, watches moons wax and wane, and waits…and waits…for that baby.  She is full of wonderings.  Will this baby like red boots?  singing?  and most importantly, will she like…me?

A gentle story, with artwork to match this imaginative, creative, life-loving big sister.  Swiatkowska’s scenes are vibrant with colors and textures that dance and sing along with our eager, philosophical girl in her jaunty red tights.  This book will capture the attention and imagination especially of young, artistic souls; my eldest would have loved it.

The Very Little Girl, by Phyllis Krasilovsky, pictures by Karen Gundersheimer

From the bright pink cover to the charming, teeny details in the pictures, this book is a girly-girl’s choice!

“Once there was a little girl who was very very very little,” it begins.  She is bitsy, in her black Mary Jane shoes and pretty pink dress with puffed sleeves, curly mop of hair topped with a big pink bow, bright eyes peering straight at you.  Sweet as strawberry ice cream.

This little girl is so small.  Everything from wagons to cookie jars to merry-go-rounds are too big, and high, and out of reach for her.  But, little by little, she grows.  Of course.  She becomes big enough to swing, and climb over, and reach cookies.  She even grows big enough for a fine big bed instead of her pale pink crib.  And that’s a good thing because…

you guessed it.  She is also big enough to be the big sister to her new baby brother.  What joy!

A completely tickle-you-pink package.  Pint-sized book for pint-sized hands.  Perfect details for small persons, and utterly charming pictures which are Karen Gundersheimer’s trademark.  Our battered copy has been read countless times.

Here are Amazon links for all these big-brother-and-sister stories:

Annie Rose Is My Little Sister
Another Brother
One Special Day (A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters)
This Baby
The Very Little Girl (Cartwheel)