love that baby…five affectionate books for big brothers and sisters

vintage big sisterThere are a lot of older-sibling  stories out there riding the “babies-are-such-a-pain” train.

I am sure many of them hit the sweet spot, but honestly, in our household the new babies were warmly welcomed, kissed, doted on, sung to…most of the time, at least.

When my kids were small, I always looked for stories that were realistic, yet mainly poured the love on the newest members of the family. Here are five that do just that:

oscar's half birthday cover image 001Oscar’s Half Birthday, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
published in 2005 by Candlewick Press

This little squirt, Oscar, is six month’s old.

It’s not nearly time for his full-blown, one-year-old, birthday party. But…

The truth is, no one can wait for his whole birthday.”

Big sister Millie thinks he is SO CUTE. So do Dad and Mom.

So this awesome family is just going ahead with it and celebrating at the halfway point. Why not?! It’s a perfect day for it.

Grab a picnic lunch and a chocolate birthday cake. Pop Oscar in the stroller oscar's half birthday illustration bob graham 001and hike it on over to Bellevue Hill. Listen to all the adoring comments about the little podger as everyone nearby stops to greet him and sing the birthday song. Millie and Oscar even soak in a candlelit bath at day’s end — one last flare of half-birthday magic.

I always say this, but…I love Bob Graham’s work. This endearing book makes the commonplace, extraordinary. It makes family love feel as warm as a sunny picnic and as approachable as a tuna sandwich. Amazing, beautifully-human, pen and watercolor illustrations pull us right into the events and emotions of the day. A lovely read for ages 4 and up.

a baby sister for frances cover imageA Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
published in 1964 by HarperCollins

All the Frances stories are gems which I hope you’ve already discovered.

If by any chance you’ve missed them, A Baby Sister for Frances is a fine place to start.

Frances’ family has just welcomed new baby Gloria into their home and Frances is finding it a mite hard. Mother hasn’t had time to iron her favorite blue dress so she has to wear the yellow one. Frances prefers raisins on her oatmeal but Mother hasn’t quite got the shopping done so it’s bananas.

Feeling droopy and forgotten, Frances decides to run away.a baby sister for frances illustration lillian hoban 001

She packs her tiny special blanket, her alligator doll, a box of prunes, and five chocolate sandwich cookies, announces her departure, and runs…under the dining-room table.

From this cozy spot, Frances eavesdrops on her parents — two of the cleverest parents on the planet — and what she overhears convinces her that a) Gloria needs her and b) so do her parents. It’s a happy reunion — complete with chocolate cake.

Funny, warmhearted, true-to-life, the Frances stories are oft-quoted in our family even decades after reading them.  They work as early-readers and are terrific read-alouds. If you get the audio version narrated by Glynis Johns, you will adore her marvelous, raspy voice and cheery versions of Frances’ songs.

Ages 3 and up.

elizabeti's doll cover imageElizabeti’s Doll, by Stephanie Stuve Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
published in 1998 by Lee & Low Books

On the dry savannahs under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Elizabeti lives with her mama and new baby brother, Obedi.

Elizabeti is utterly smitten with Obedi.

She wants so much to have her own baby to care for. So she looks for one and finds the perfect thing: a rock. Just the right heft and size and smoothness. She names it Eva.

As Mama goes through the day caring for Obedi, Elizabeti does the same with Eva, bathing, feeding, burping, changing, toting.

elizabeti's doll bodeen and hale interior

But when she has to leave her rock-baby for a moment to fetch water, Eva goes missing. There’s a bit of panic and sadness until Elizabeti finally finds that missing baby of hers, just in time to sing her a lullaby and fall asleep.

Of course, I dearly love the East African setting of this story, beautifully brought to us through Christy Hale’s illustrations. The acacia trees, kangas, metal basins, corrugated metal roofs as well as the vast plains and handsome people plant this story firmly in Tanzania.

The story itself is so sweet and universal. Perfect story for big sisters, ages 3 and up.

olly and me cover imageOlly and Me, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2004 by Candlewick Press

Katie is a dandy preschooler and Olly is her baby brother.

The poems and ramblings in this collection by Shirley Hughes are all written in Katie’s voice as she narrates their lovely, ordinary days together.

Snuggling in bed. Walking in a frosty winterolly and me illustration shirley hughes 001 park. Ballet class. Dad’s pancakes. This is Katie’s and Olly’s world.

Unlike the other stories on today’s list, Olly plays a decided backseat role in Katie’s activities. She, after all, is the big sister, and Olly is too little to dance properly, to venture out after dark to see fireworks, to understand about birthdays.

Yet he’s there, a wriggly, busy, beaming part of her world. Sometimes a tish cranky. Mostly a fine companion.

As always, Shirley’s inimitable paintings portray the comfy, loving, gladsome world of sturdy preschoolers, mussy homes, shaggy dogs, English parks with such grace, you feel at home right in the pages. Lots of outdoor time and creative play. Perfect for ages 2 and up.

the baby sister cover imageThe Baby Sister, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
published in 1996 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

This semi-autobiographical account is charming and sweet, with a dash of Italian spice!

Tommy comes from a large extended family. Apparently he has learned over the years just what he likes in a baby.

So when his mother tells him that she is going to the baby sister illustration tomie depaola 001have a new baby, Tommy promptly asks if it can please be a baby sister “with a red ribbon in her hair.”

His mother replies in Secret Parent Language: “We’ll see.”

There’s lots of work to be done, getting ready for this baby, but finally Tommy’s Italian grandmother arrives to care for him while mother and father are at the hospital. She’s the spicy part of the story!

Tommy does get a baby sister, but sadly, he isn’t allowed to visit her in the hospital because of a chicken pox epidemic. He has to wait, and wait, and wait, until mother and baby Maureen come home.

And then!! What a surprise awaits Tommy!

Warm as toast, with Tomie’s signature figures and faces that have such tremendous child-appeal. Ages 3 and up.