Tag Archive: siblings


dory fantasmagory

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

Dory is the youngest in her family and her older siblings won’t play with her at all.  So she is left to play on her own and thanks to her great imagination, Dory has a lot of fun.  Dory has a best friend, Mary, a monster who sleeps under her bed and is always willing to play.  There are also other monsters all over their house.  When Dory continues to bother her brother and sister, they make up a story about Mrs. Gobble Gracker, a horrible woman who steals baby girls and is looking for Dory!  So when the doorbell rings, Dory knows it is Mrs. Gobble Gracker coming for her.  Hopefully the little man who says he’s her fairy godmother will be able to help defeat her.  In the end though it is Dory’s own creativity and bravery that will save her and maybe even get her siblings to play too.

Hanlon brilliantly captures the wild imagination of a little girl who doesn’t slow down for a minute, zinging from one idea to the next even as those around her groan.  Dory could have been a problematic character, but thanks to the book being told from her point of view, readers will get to see how strong a person she is long before she displays it to her family.

Hanlon’s art makes this a book that younger readers will happily pick up and read.  Her black and white illustrations are more than paragraph breaks, they show the story of Dory and all of the characters she dreams up over the course of the day.  On the page, we see what Dory sees, not what her family doesn’t see and it’s quite a world that she has created.

Fast moving, wild and full of laughs, this book is a dynamic introduction to a fresh new face that will appeal to fans of Junie B, Jones.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

loula and the sister recipe

Loula and the Sister Recipe by Anne Villeneuve

The inventive Loula returns for her second outing in this picture book.  Here she is sick and tired of her three brothers who refuse to play with her.  So Loula decides that what she needs is a little sister, one who is just like her.  So she goes to her parents and requests that they get her one.  Her father explains that making a sister is a lot like baking a cake and needs special ingredients like a papa and a mama, butterflies in the stomach, a full moon, a candlelight supper, kisses and hugs, and chocolate.  So Loula sets off to shop for those things with her ever-helpful chauffeur Gilbert.  In the end, it all comes together in one amazing evening filled with candlelight, moonlight, and a sister surprise.

This second picture book about Loula again shows her determination and ability to look at a problem positively as something to solve.  Infused with humor, young readers will know that her plan is probably not going to work out the way she thinks, yet few will expect the twist at the end when it comes.  Having adored Gilbert the chauffeur in the first book, I was very pleased that this second book has much the same structure with Gilbert helping Loula gather everything she needs, including live butterflies.

The illustrations in this book have a loose flowing quality that has lots of motion and energy.  Done in ink and watercolor, they vary from small illustrations with white backgrounds to two-page spreads filled with color.  My favorite is the leaping Gilbert attempting to catch a butterfly in a net.

A strong young heroine with plenty of chutzpah combines with plenty of humor in this picture book series.  Make sure to read both of the books because it’s even more time to spend with the amazing Loula!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

ill give you the sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jude and Noah are twins and they are so close.  Both of them are artists and Noah in particular sees the world as constant inspiration for his artwork.  Noah is withdrawn from others his age and bullied by other boys.  Jude though is being noticed by the same boys who bully her brother and as they turn thirteen, the two of them may be different but they are still close.  Jude is wearing lipstick and diving from cliffs.  Noah is starting to fall for the boy across the street.  Three years later though, the two of them are completely estranged from one another.  They barely speak.  Jude is the artist now and Noah no longer paints.  Jude has discovered a mentor for her art and a boy who is just as damaged as she is.  Noah is a normal straight teen who hangs out with those who once bullied him and now dives from cliffs himself.  How did two teens change so much in such a short period of time?  That’s the story here, and it involves grief, loss, betrayal, lies, love and truth.

Nelson tells the early part of the twins’ story in Noah’s voice.  We get to experience the joy he feels about art and the beauty of his emerging sexuality combined with his fear of being discovered.  Jude tells the story after their relationship is fractured.  Her story is one of passions and change.  They are both stories of trying to hide what you are, trying to become something new.  They are stories that veer swiftly, change often and shout with emotion and pain. 

Nelson writes with exquisite emotion on the page.  She shows the passion, the fear, the grief, the love vividly and with such heart.  It is her emotional honesty on the page that avoids sentimentality at all.  Rather this book is raw and aching in every way, from the new relationships that are filled with lust and longing to the destroyed sibling relationship that is one lost and hurt betrayal after another.  She also manages to somehow capture art and inspiration on the page, the power of art to express, the emotions that it creates and acknowledges, the joy of creation and the agony of being unable to make it. 

Powerful storytelling that is beautifully written and tells the story of two siblings and their journey through being teenagers.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

twins little sister

The Twins’ Little Sister by Hyewon Yum

This follow-up to The Twins’ Blanket features the same twin girls.  The book is told from their shared perspective.  In this book, the issue is that there are two of them, but they only have one mother that they have to share.  During nap time, both girls want their mother to look at them, but she can only look in one direction at a time.  Being pushed on the swings is also a problem, since their mother can only push one of them at a time.  Now they have a little sister arriving soon too and there will be even more demand for their mother’s time.  When the baby arrives, the girls are not impressed.  They can no longer be in the big bed with their mother because the baby is there.  Their mother can’t push the swings at all anymore, because her arms are full.  Then the girls discover that they get lots of attention for helping with the baby.  Soon the girls are adoring big sisters, but there’s still one problem, they need another little sister so they don’t have to share!

This is a clever twist on sibling rivalry that shows the closeness and competitive nature of being sisters and twins.  It is particularly good to see that the rivalry existed before the younger sibling arrived and that it was just another factor in the family dynamic.  The voice of the two girls together is clear and bright, they are strong-willed little girls but that is not a bad thing.  I appreciate a book that shows children being less than perfect on the page. 

Yum’s illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor and cut paper.  The girls are distinguished by their dresses and barrettes but are otherwise identical.  Emotions are clear on their faces, their eyes shining with feelings above their rosy cheeks. 

A great choice for new siblings, this picture book shows human children grappling with being siblings and sharing.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

nine open arms

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf

Translated from the original Dutch, this book is the story of Fing and her family.  Fing’s mother died years ago and since then her father and her grandmother have taken care of them.  They are a big family, with Fing’s three older brothers and her two sisters, Muulke and Jess.  Fing’s father has decided to start a cigar business, so they move out of town to a big old house that has something very strange about it that Fing can’t quite figure out.  They call it Nine Open Arms, because that is how far across it is.  The house is near a cemetery, the front door is at the back, and there is a bed in storage that looks like a tombstone.  As the girls start a new school, they slowly begin to discover the secrets of Nine Open Arms and of their own community and family.

Delightfully wild and incredibly quirky, this book is one of a kind.  From the family that moves constantly, to the cemetery next door where they go to get their water each day, to the crocodile purse that is used to tell family stories, to the controlling grandmother who is dominant but deeply loving in her own way, to the one old story that is the key to understanding it all.  This is a richly rewarding read, one that you have to head out on before you even know what journey you are on.  It is a book that meanders but each turn is essential to the book in the end, where it all clicks into place. 

Told in the first person by Fing, the book unfolds before you, each reveal another piece of the family, another story, another moment that is meaningful.  It is a perfectly crafted book that has a plot that moves in its own time, another time, a less modern pace.  It ties to the pace of the family, one where things are revealed in their own space.  It’s incredibly well done.

Beautifully written, magnificently crafted, this Dutch novel is like nothing you have read before, and that is wonderful!  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

sisters

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Released August 26, 2014.

The exceptionally talented and incredibly popular Raina Telgemeier returns with a sequel to her beloved Smile.  This is the story of Raina and her little sister, Amara.  Raina was desperate to have a little sister, but Amara is not working out the way she had pictured.  Now Raina is stuck on a road trip with her sister, little brother and her mother.  They are all stuck in a van traveling from San Francisco to Colorado for a family reunion.  The relationship between the two sisters is tense, not only because they have very different personalities but also because they are both artists.  Then you add in the clear issues of Raina’s parents and you have a dynamic view of a family on the brink of big changes.  It’s just up to Raina and Amara as to how their relationship with one another will change.

Telgemeier has created another breathtakingly honest graphic novel for elementary and middle grade readers.  Through her illustrations and humor, she shows a family at the crux of a moment that could change things forever.  The book though focuses on flashbacks showing the family and how relationships have altered.  Readers may be so focused on the story of the two sisters that they too will be blindsided along with Raina about the other issues facing their family.  It’s a craftily told story, one that surprises and delights.

As always, Telgemeier’s art is fantastic.  She has a light touch, one that invites readers into her world and her family and where they long to linger.  Her art is always approachable and understandable, more about a vehicle to tell the story than about making an artistic statement on its own.  It is warm, friendly and fantastic.

Highly recommended, this book belongs in every library that works with children.  A dynamite sequel that lives up to the incredible first book.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

troublemaker

The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo

Told in the first person, this picture book is from the point of view of one bored little boy.  He and his stuffed raccoon decide to play pirates.  To do that you had to not only be sneaky but you also needed a prisoner, and his sister’s stuffed rabbit was quickly stolen and sent afloat in the lake.  The boy was scolded and the now damp bunny was returned to his angry sister.  The boy then spent time playing with his own toys, but soon his mother was asking if he’d taken the bunny again.  He hadn’t but no one believed him and then his stuffed animal went missing too!  It was a real mystery and now they had a real pirate on their hands.

Castillo takes a classic book of summer boredom and then picking on a sibling to a different and surprising place in this picture book.  Children who are paying attention will notice a furry face that appears on almost every page in the background, a lurking raccoon who seems to want to get involved or maybe is having his own dull afternoon and is looking for some fun.  This second little troublemaker adds a great amount of fun to the story.  Even better, having dealt with raccoons invading my house and stealing my son’s stuffed animals up into their attic den, this all rings completely true.

Castillo’s signature art style is on display here.  She manages to capture a timeless look on the page but also one that is modern and fresh.  The tinge of blue on the stuffed raccoon make sure that children will not mix up the real and stuffed animals.  The family’s home is well detailed, busy and filled with other natural touches.

A solid new title from Castillo that will work well for units or story times about pirates, siblings or raccoons.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

complicit

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Jamie and his sister Cate were adopted by a wealthy couple whose own children died.  But money can’t fix everything.  Two years ago Cate was sentenced to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbors horse barn and injuring a girl.  Now Cate is free and she’s returning to Jamie’s life though he wants nothing to do with her.  When Jamie had first heard of the barn burning down, his arms went completely numb and non-functional.  He’s gotten better in the last two years, but hearing that his sister is returning and looking for him specifically has his arms going numb again.  Cate bears a truth that Jamie might finally be ready to hear, and Jamie knows that there is something about the fire at the barn that just isn’t right.  This tense and twisting thriller will keep readers enthralled right to the incredible ending.

Kuehn won the William C. Morris Award for her first book, Charm & Strange.  Her skills is on display here too as this second book is a completely engrossing read that is one wild ride.  Told entirely from the point of view of Jamie, readers can only guess at what he is hiding from himself.  Tension builds as Jamie starts to piece together clues about Cate and what she was doing the night the barn burned and then why she turned herself in days later.   As Cate starts to call Jamie and provide hints herself, the tension creeps up higher.  The explosive ending will confirm some reader’s guesses but will also stun with its revelations.

Skillfully written and plotted, this novel explores mental illness in a very close and personal way.  Jamie is a wonderfully flawed narrator, filling the pages with his unique point of view that readers know from the beginning is skewed though they are not sure exactly how.  That is part of the brilliance of the book, that there are many ways in which Jamie can be misunderstanding his sister and his past.  That’s what keep readers turning the pages, the need to know what in the world is the truth.

A riveting and breathtaking read, this is a perfect summer read to share between friends.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Macmillan.

infinite sky

Infinite Sky by C. J. Flood

This book begins with the death of a boy but the identity of the dead person is not revealed.  We are then taken back to the beginning of summer, three months after Iris’ mother has left their family and just as the travelers come to stay in the field near Iris’ home.  She lives with her father and Sam, her brother, who continues to struggle with his mother leaving.  Iris starts watching the travelers in the field and becomes friends with Trick, a boy who is easy to talk to and easy to listen to.  Tensions start to rise as a theft is discovered and the travelers are blamed for it.  The long, hot British summer inexorably leads towards the death of one of the boys, but who is it?  Is it Trick or Sam?

Flood’s writing is beautiful and detailed.  The setting she creates of the British countryside in summer is one that is so finely drawn that you can see it in its entirety.  In fact, you can hear it, feel it, smell it too, so clear and strong are her descriptions.  The book’s structure of starting with the tragedy that defines the story adds a great amount of tension.  Because the boy who dies is not revealed until towards the end of the book, that mystery is a focus.  Yet at times one is also lost in the summer itself, its heat and the freedom it provides.

Flood has also created a complicated group of characters in this book.  All of the characters have complicated family lives, whether it is a mother who left or an abusive father.  Yet these characters are not defined by those others, they are profoundly affected by it, but are characters with far more depth than just an issue.  This is a book that explores being an outsider, falling in love, expressing emotions, and most of all being true to yourself and doing what you know is right.

A perfect read for a hot summer day, this is a compelling mix of romance, mystery and tragedy.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

one busy day

One Busy Day by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve

The siblings from One Special Day return a little bit older in this follow-up picture book.  Mia wants to play with her older brother Spencer, but he’s too busy playing on his own.  So Mia starts being busy herself.  She paints pictures, dances, explores caves, makes mudpies, and builds castles.  Slowly as Mia plays, Spencer starts joining in with her, until they are playing together side-by-side.  That’s when Mia’s castle needs defending from a dragon!  And the two played together until bedtime. 

Such a positive approach to getting an older sibling to play.  The two children don’t have any negative interactions, it’s just that Spencer is simply not interested in playing with Mia right then.  This gives Mia the space to react without anger, instead enticing Spencer to join her.  I always appreciate a book that shows no fighting between siblings but also isn’t the picture of perfection either.  This picture book has a much more complex approach to sibling interactions and it’s a welcome change.

Meserve’s illustrations add a warm richness to the story.  As Mia plays, she does something in real life then the page is turned and you can see what she is doing in her imagination.  So on one page she is making mudpies and on the next they are grand cakes and pies.  Empty boxes become pirate treasure chests.  The freezer is an icy mountain.  The images of the backyard are filled with details just like Mia’s imagination.  So there is no lack of lushness in reality, especially when Spencer plays too.

A positive and affirming look at the joy of playing together as siblings and the power of imagination.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,221 other followers