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Sibling rivalry

As every big sibling knows, having a little brother or sister can be…complicated. One minute they’re acting “slippery as a snake’s belly in a mudslide,” the next they’re protecting you from things that go bump in the night. The following picture books capture this ever-shifting sibling dynamic.

dunrea_gemma and gusGemma & Gus welcomes two new goslings into Olivier Dunrea’s much-beloved series (begun with Gossie and Gossie & Gertie). Intrepid explorer Gemma sports a safari helmet and field glasses; her little brother Gus wears a saucepan on his head. Little brother follows big sister everywhere, until she hollers the words known to all younger siblings everywhere: “Don’t keep following me!” Accustomed to having company, however, lonely Gemma quickly finds herself in her brother’s position, now following him around the farm. Dunrea’s gently amusing, pleasingly repetitive stories and thoroughly beguiling illustrations continue to capture preschooler life in all its variety. (Houghton, 2–5 years)

dyckman_wolfie the bunnyAt the start of Wolfie the Bunny, rabbit Dot is none too pleased when a baby wolf is left on the Bunny family’s doorstop; her parents, on the other hand, are totally smitten. As Wolfie grows, so does his appetite…for carrots. While at the store (for more carrots!), Dot is saved by Wolfie when a hungry bear lunges toward them yelling, “DINNER!” Ame Dyckman’s humorous text keeps scariness in check, as does the flat, cartoonish aesthetic of Zachariah OHora’s acrylic paintings; see: guileless Wolfie dressed in pink footie pajamas with bunny ears trailing behind his (much smaller) big sister. (Little, Brown, 2–5 years)

child_new small personWhat firstborn doesn’t revel in being thought of by his parents as “simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen”? Such is the case with Elmore Green, star of The New Small Person, whose worldview is upended by the arrival of a new baby sibling. As the baby grows bigger — and bossier and peskier — so does Elmore’s resentment, until the small person, courageously, proves his worth. Author Lauren Child (creator of the Charlie and Lola series) is no stranger to fraught sibling dynamics, and her trademark mixed-media collages provide a sympathetic kid’s-eye view. (Candlewick, 3–6 years)

perkins_rodeo redThe narrator of Rodeo Red by Maripat Perkins is a little girl in dress-up clothes who’s never without her loyal (stuffed) canine companion, Rusty. When Red’s baby brother “Sideswiping Slim” nabs Rusty, the young cowpoke-in-training finds herself in a pickle: how to git back what’s rightfully hers while avoiding a time-out. The text is flavored with kid-pleasing old-timey expressions (“lower than a prairie dog’s basement,” “happier than two freckles on a sunny cheek”). Molly Idle’s high-spirited colored-pencil illustrations straddle Red’s real life at home and her wild (west) imagination. (Peachtree, 3–6 years)

From the March 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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