Things have changed a little bit in the Story Seekers house over the last few months, and I’m not just talking about the fact that our collection of intricately detailed Lego firefighting, turbo blasting, booster-pack-enabled spaceship creations seems to expand on a daily basis. Nope, a couple of months ago we gained an even MORE exciting addition in the form of Baby R. While admittedly he is probably a little more high maintenance than C or H had anticipated (though he’s still pretty good for such a teeny person!), they couldn’t love him more and he’s lucky if he makes it more than ten minutes in a row without being showered with kisses and cuddles.
Clearly, this is fantastic news and M and I are over the moon that the transition from two to three children has basically gone smoothly thus far. However, of course there are bumps in the road and C and H do get frustrated by the fact that R’s needs sometimes mean that they have to wait a little longer than usual for a story or a snack. As C and H are quite close in age, we’re also at the point where they are quite competitive with each other and though H is probably stronger, C still has the edge when it comes to verbal arguments (most of the time…).
All this makes for interesting parenting and I’m constantly looking for ways to help the boys understand their place in the family dynamic and how their actions can impact upon it. As usual, books have been brilliant at providing a starting point for various discussions about how we can all rub along together and about how we can appreciate our roles within the family while still retaining our individuality. (Needless to say, we don’t phrase it quite like this when talking to the boys!)
Anyway, along with some classics from my own childhood, there are some recently published treasures that we’ve really taken to, so I thought it might be useful to share them with you. Not all of them actually feature siblings, but all of them cover issues which regularly come up between our boys and thus we’ve found them invaluable.
The first is ‘Mr Super Poopy Pants‘ by Rebecca Elliott (published by Lion Children’s Books)
This absolute treasure of a book has been just great to share with C and H since the arrival of R. It takes a humorous, but always sensitive, approach to tackling the potentially huge issue of gaining another sibling. Like Mr Super Poopy Pants (aka Benjamin), R is our third child and we were keen to make it as easy as possible for C and H to accept him into their tight-knit little gang. Rebecca Elliott’s book is based on her own real life family, consisting of her daughter Clemmie and her son Toby (whose relationship is the subject of Elliott’s book, ‘Just Because’ and describes how both of them cope with Clemmie’s profound disabilities) and now their little brother, Mr Super Poopy Pants.
Understandably, having a new baby join the team is a huge deal, but by combining beautiful, retro style illustrations with humour (who doesn’t love a description of the pros and cons of different sorts of baby poo??? C and H were weak with laughter!) and an underlying assumption that families will always stick together and work things out somehow, Elliott has produced a book that should be given out as a matter of course to all children about to gain a sibling.
The second is ‘You are (not) small‘ by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant (published by Hodder Children’s Books)
This book is based on a very simple idea that is executed brilliantly. Since R arrived, H in particular has had to get used to a new role, as he’s now a big brother as well as a little brother. Obviously we don’t simply define the boys in relation to each other as they are individuals in their own right, but C and H are constantly talking about who’s bigger, who’s stronger, who’s faster, etc. This book neatly encapsulates the fact that all of these statements can be viewed differently depending upon the context, with a very funny twist at the end. It’s a perfect way to try and persuade C and H that there are perhaps more fun ways they could be spending their time than constantly comparing themselves to each other!
The illustrations in this book are bold and engaging and they fit perfectly with the sparse but highly effective text and I love the fact this book was written and illustrated by a husband and wife team – what a fun project (and all the more impressive as I can only imagine what M and I would come up with if we had to create something together… It certainly wouldn’t be a smasher of children’s book!).
Next up, there’s ‘TiN‘ by Chris Judge (published by Andersen)
C and H are certainly never left alone in charge of R (or even themselves) but this book provides us with a good idea of what might well happen if they were! Tin is left in charge of his little sister, Nickel, and while he’s temporarily distracted by his comics, Nickel manages to make a bid for freedom as she chases after a balloon. What ensues is a good old-fashioned chasing adventure, with the siblings ending up in the safari park, via the town and the fair, before finally being reunited and making it home without their parents being any the wiser. Phew! C and H find the premise of this book hilarious (children off adventuring on their own? Wowsers!) and the fact that the characters are robots makes it even more popular. Yesterday we actually read this book four times in a row with no breaks in between – if that doesn’t vouch for it being a good story, I don’t know what does.
A particular favourite of mine is ‘Mine!‘ by Jerome Keane, illustrated by Susana De Dios (published by Orchard Books)
This book features a picture that made me laugh out loud when I saw it for the first time and still makes me chortle on each repeated viewing…
The nostrils, the rolled eyes, the slouching. Everything about this illustration is perfect. Although I think it’s unrelated to the arrival of R, C and H are currently at the stage where they will bicker over the smallest of things and where no toy or activity seems as appealing as that which the other one happens to be engaged with. If you want a book that will open up discussions about sharing and cooperation without ever being preachy then this is the book you need. Its super stylish illustrations make it even more appealing – I’d not come across either the illustrator or the author prior to reading this book and am very pleased to have been introduced to their work. Quite simply, it’s fab.
For an utterly beautiful book that will stay with you forever, try ‘On Sudden Hill‘ by Linda Sarah, illustrated by Benji Davies (published by Simon and Schuster Children’s Books)
We already knew about both the illustrator and author of this book, being huge fans of ‘The Storm Whale‘ and ‘Mi and Museum City‘. Thus, we were on tenterhooks waiting for their collaboration on this book and we definitely weren’t disappointed. The boys enjoy this story at face value, being a tale about two friends and how their relationship changes when a third person joins the gang. We all appreciate how much fun it is to think of the myriad different ways in which a cardboard box can be used in a game and how playing imaginative games is a really cool thing to do with friends (or brothers). The beautiful, lyrical language Linda Sarah chooses fits perfectly with the heart-wrenchingly good illustrations, both of which make me feel almost overwhelmed with emotion at how well C and H have adapted to R joining *their* gang. As it says on the last page of the book, “It’s new. And it’s good.” And so is this book. Very, VERY good.
‘Charlie and Lola: Slightly Invisible‘ by Lauren Child (published by Orchard Books)
This book very much reminds me of C and H at the moment. H is becoming more confident and developing a really nice group of friends at pre-school, but he’s still very keen to join in C’s games. He’s not really got in to having independent play dates yet, whereas C has, so he does find himself in Lola’s shoes trying to get two older children to play his game when they sometimes just want to do their own thing. He’s also similar to Lola in that he’s pretty clever at actually getting them to acquiesce, mostly without them realising they’ve done so 😉 As always, Lauren Child hits the nail on the head with it comes to children’s speech patterns and as I also love collage-type illustrations, this book ticks a lots of boxes for us, plus it’s really helped both C and H to understand how the other one feels when H wants to join in and C isn’t so keen. We don’t have any other Charlie and Lola books, but on the basis of this one we’ll be heading to library to seek out some more…
So, here’s the question… Do you have any great recommendations for books that deal brilliantly with sibling relationships? In addition to those recently published books reviewed above, we also like the ‘Martha and the Bunny Brothers’ books by Clara Vulliamy and the ‘Alfie and Annie Rose’ books by Shirley Hughes and the boys are always keen to dig out my old Topsy and Tim books. We’d love to hear about any others that you enjoy 🙂
Disclaimer: Other than ‘On Sudden Hill’, which I purchased myself, I received my copies of these books from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the reviews represent my own honest opinion.