by Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Joe Bluhm
Middle Grade Contemporary
What do you do when you have an incredibly annoying little sister? Write her letters telling her so, of course!
Whininess, annoyingness, afraid of the darkness, refusal to eat lima beans, and pulling brother's hair. This is the criteria on which little sisters are graded. Inspired by the notes Alison McGhee's own kids would write each other, this heavily illustrated collection of letters and messages from an older brother to his little sister reveal the special love--or, at the very least, tolerance--siblings have for each other.
With lots of humor and heart, the frustrations and (not openly admitted) joy of having a much younger sibling is explored.
A boy has enjoyed his life with his parents for eight (I think it was eight) years, when suddenly a sister is born. Having a crying, attention needy small sister isn't all whipped cream and roses. Through short letters and tons of illustrations, the changing relationship along with other hurdles is explored.
The plus point of this book sits in the illustrations and overly honest letters. They are short (great for reluctant readers) and packed with humor. This boy isn't happy about having a younger sister, and definitely makes this clear and known. The illustrations fit extremely well to the main characters age and add giggles and snorts the whole way through. From the formatting and these doodles, it's a sure-fire hit for middle graders.
The difficulties of having younger siblings, especially those with a larger age difference, are presented in an honest way which will hit home at least half-way through the book. Older siblings will easily relate to the issues and see themselves in the pages. But this book isn't only about middle graders. Rather, it follows the boy's letters as he hits high school, and then leaves for college. While adults and siblings who have left for college will sympathize, middle graders won't connect as well in these later pages. Also, the boy tends to dance along the negative side of things which it comes to his younger sister, especially in the first half. The positive words are very rare the entire way through, although a 'love' does develop by the end. This, however, remains mostly unspoken and is felt behind the words. Moments of love would have been nice, since I've never witnessed only frustration between siblings with larger age differences.
All in all, this is a nicely done book which hits upon the complex relationship between siblings in a humorous and easy to read way.
And here they are...
Alison McGhee is the New York Times bestselling author of Someday, as well as Maybe a Fox, Firefly Hollow, Little Boy, and the Bink and Gollie books. Her other children's books include All Rivers Flow to the Sea, Countdown to Kindergarten, and Snap. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Laguna Beach, California. Visit her at Alison McGhee.com.
Joe Bluhm is an Academy Award-winning artist who worked with William Joyce on The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. He's also a character designer, animator, and recovering theme park caricaturist. He lives in Louisiana with his wife. Visit him a t JoeBluhm.blogspot.com.