The Baby Swap by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (InfoSoup)
Caroline is not happy to have a baby brother. Her mother adores him despite his dribbling mouth. She talks all of the time about his yellow eyes and green skin and how very cute he is. When her mother goes into town to exchange her hat for one that is just right, Caroline gets an idea and heads to the baby store to trade her baby brother in for one that is just right too. The baby panda with yellow eyes like her mother likes eats the bamboo furniture. The baby elephant is too squirty and ends up breaking a fountain. The two baby tigers are too active and too much of a handful for her. By the time she goes through all of the available babies, the store only has one left, her original baby brother. But after all of that, he looks pretty perfect to her!
Ormerod takes a humorous look at sibling rivalry in this picture book. Caroline is clearly jealous of the time that her mother spends with her little brother, but that is transferred to disliking his drool and activities. The idea of exchanging an infant for one who fits and suits you better is a clever one, and an idea that children will understand. The ending where Caroline takes her own brother back works very well and doesn’t feel forced or overplayed. Instead it feels like the natural extension of the experience that the character has had.
Joyner’s illustrations add to the humor of the book. Filling his pages with a community of different animals, Joyner makes sure that it is a modern world with cell phones, portable music, and cars. Yet it also has a distinct vintage feel in the way that the characters dress and touches like the price tags on the babies and their cloth diapers. It’s a distinctive mix of the two, one that is modern and yet warm.
A great addition to the crowded shelves of sibling rivalry books and one that takes a more lighthearted and humorous approach to the situation. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon and Schuster.
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (InfoSoup)
The third and final book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy is just as delightful as the first two. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern travel south to Alabama to spend the summer with their grandmother and great-grandmother, Big Ma and Ma Charles. After living in Brooklyn, they are surprised at how slow life is in the country with no stores to visit and little to do to pass the time. Their cousin JimmyTrotter lives on the other side of the creek with Miss Trotter who is the half sister of Ma Charles. But the two sisters don’t speak at all except in messages that the children carry back and forth across the creek. The Gaither sisters learn about their extended family and all of the sorts of people that are part of their heritage, including Native Americans and white people. Delphine is just as hard on Vonetta as she always is, but it may be too much when Vonetta runs away from home. When tragedy strikes, it is up to Delphine to rethink the way that she interacts with her sisters, even when they drive her crazy.
Throughout the trilogy, Williams-Garcia has used these books to offer young readers a glimpse at the lives of African-American people in different parts of the country as well as the discrimination they face. This third book celebrates the various parts of African-American history, including some lesser known pieces like Native Americans owning and selling slaves. Here we also see the KKK and the mixed heritage of some of the more hateful people in a community.
Rippling through these more serious parts of the book are the personalities of all of the characters from the three sisters at its heart to their extended family. There are moments of hilarity mixed into it, creating a book that is a pleasure to read but also has a solidity to it thanks to its clear ties to real history. The dynamics of the sisters and their families is also captured in a realistic and loving way. Themes such as forgiveness, anger and family commitments are all part of this gorgeous read.
Readers who loved the first two books will adore this southern country ending to the series, though we will all mourn not being able to join these three sisters in more adventures. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Tapper Twins Go to War by Geoff Rodkey
Released April 7, 2015.
When siblings go to war, they both end up hurt especially if they happen to be twins! Claudia and Reese are very different from one another, but they are also alike. They both love toaster pastries and that is how the entire war began, when one twin accused the other of stealing their pastry. That was bad enough, but then it escalated quickly at their school cafeteria where Claudia was accused of being the one who farted and got the nickname “Princess Farts-A-Lot.” That led to Claudia trying to get Reese to be called stinky by the others and she put a dead fish in his backpack, perhaps a bit too well hidden. From there though, the war gets really ugly and turns virtual with social media and video games as the battlefields. A modern look at being a sibling and having one enormous fight, online and off.
Rodkey has created a very smart book that captures the digital age and being a tween. The book is in a unique format where Claudia is documenting what had happened during the war with Reese and Reese regularly interjecting his own point of view. The book has photographs, cartoons, and texts between different family members too. The result is a book perfect for reluctant readers who will enjoy the short blocks of text broken regularly with images.
They will also enjoy the humor of the book, including a very nicely done interplay between the two siblings. Their anger at one another and their relationship really works in the book and is life like. The escalating war between the twins is made possible by parents who are tired, inattentive and also lifelike. Their exchanges with one another are equally humorous as the twins’ exchanges are.
Funny and very friendly, this is a book that middle school readers will love. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
The creator of Charlie and Lola returns with a new picture book sibling pair. Elmore Green has always been an only child. He has his own room, no one moves his toys around, and no one eats his jelly beans. But suddenly a new baby enters the picture and soon Elmore finds himself sharing a room, unable to leave any of his toys unattended, and no one pays him attention. Perhaps worst of all, his jelly bean collection is licked by his little brother! Just as all seems to be falling apart, Elmore discovers that there are some parts of having a new sibling that aren’t so bad after all like laughing at TV shows together, sharing toys, and even sharing jelly beans (maybe).
Child has a wonderful way of understanding what children are thinking. While other new sibling books have more focus on the loss of parental attention, Child shows exactly how a small sibling can bother an older one. She merrily skips quickly past the baby stage and directly to toddlerhood where the most disruption can take place. Young readers will enjoy a book that has plenty of humor but also is realistic too.
Child’s art is done in her signature style. Her collage work incorporates pieces of cloth and patterned paper. I appreciate that her new family are people of color and also that it is not a focus of the book but just a visual component, natural and not remarked upon.
Perfect for Charlie & Lola fans and also for older siblings experiencing their own toddlers at home. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora
When the bunny family came home, they found a little bundle on their doorstep. It was a baby wolf! Mama and Papa were thrilled to take him in, but Dot knew that the wolf was going to eat them all. Still, the bunny family took Wolfie in. Dot kept an eye on him all night long, and tried again at breakfast to warn her family that they were going to be eaten. No one listened, again. Finally, Dot’s friends agreed that Dot was right and they went to play somewhere else. When she got back, Wolfie would not leave Dot alone. Days went by and Wolfie started to grow and grow. He also started to eat and eat, so Dot was sent to the store along with Wolfie. It was there that Wolfie finally showed his fangs, but it doesn’t turn out in the way that Dot was expecting!
Dyckman has created a very clever little book that shows adoption and new siblings in a fresh way. Dot is convinced from the very beginning that taking in Wolfie is a bad idea and that it will be catastrophic for her family. This feeling of doom is very much what human children feel when a new baby is announced. Wolfie goes through all of the steps of a new sibling, from getting all of the attention to being a pest. Yet through the entire book, Dyckman keeps the focus on wolves and bunnies and how it will all play out, creating a welcome added dynamic to the story.
OHora’s illustrations add to the humor on the page. Done in acrylic, the illustrations have a signature flat feeling to them that is very modern. They capture the cheerful bunny family, the worried Dot, and the adorable Wolfie. OHora also creates a dynamic neighborhood for the story to take place in that makes the entire book feel grounded and real. Or as real as a book about wolves and bunnies can be.
Clever, funny and bright, this picture book captures have a new sibling in a fresh way. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
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 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.
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.
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.