There’s nothing like a sibling when it comes to trouble-making, attention-seeking, and one-upping. Also: support, companionship, and giggle-sharing. These four new picture books feature brothers and sisters doing what siblings do best.
The star of Kelly DiPucchio’s Gaston looms over his poodle sisters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La. At the park, they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno and their petite sister Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? Should they trade families? It seems like the right thing to do until they try it, only to discover that what looks right doesn’t always feel right. Christian Robinson’s expressive paintings elegantly illustrate this different-types-of-families story. (Atheneum, 3–6 years)
While his parents tend garden and his sister plays tea party, the young narrator of The Troublemaker is bored. Seizing his wooden pirate’s sword, he kidnaps his sister’s stuffed rabbit, lashes it to his toy boat, and sets the boat free on the lake. Later on, when the bunny disappears — again! — everyone understandably suspects the narrator. With author/illustrator Lauren Castillo’s boldly rendered pictures, the book is at once handsome and child friendly — a good conversation starter for preschoolers. (Clarion, 3–6 years)
Out for a walk, two vole brothers look up to see a pigeon flying overhead: “Ooooooo…” But then — “SPLAT!” The clueless pigeon lets loose, dropping a bird-poo bomb on one brother’s head (pause here for preschool laughter). Splat!: Starring the Vole Brothers by Roslyn Schwartz (creator of the Mole Sisters stories) plays out primarily in the spare ink and pencil-crayon illustrations, especially in Schwartz’s expressive characters. A few sound effects (flap flap; splat) and minimal dialogue (“Err…”; “Hee hee hee”) advance the bare-bones story, but pre-readers should be able to follow the slapstick action easily on their own. (Owlkids, 3–6 years)
Donkeys Martha and Hal, from Me First by Max Kornell, are ultracompetitive siblings. After a family picnic — during which they find “exciting ways to try to outdo each other” — they get permission to go home a different way. One misadventure after another on the walk back helps the siblings grow to appreciate each other and realize that a little cooperation goes a long way. Kornell’s acrylic ink drawings burst with color in this sibling rivalry story minus any heavy-handedness. (Penguin/Paulsen, 4–7 years)
From the May 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.