In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aack! New Baby!

Dear Annie,

Before I go on to new sibling books, I have one last discovery to add to the Best-Ever cover change. Remember the cover for
Best-Ever Big Sister
, which I thought had been unchanged? Well, guess what arrived at the store today?:

The change isn't as drastic as going from an African-American kid to blond hair and blue eyes, as they did with the brother (see 6/1 post) . But she still isn't who she used to be.

You ask about new sibling books. The Best-Evers are fine, and good for toddlers, complete with lift-the-flaps. They fall into the see-what-I-can-do category of big sibling books: reassure older sibling by celebrating his/her accomplishments, plant the idea that older child will be able to teach younger. My favorite of this type currently in print is Babies Can't Eat Kimchee, addressed quite nicely by you on 5/28.

Then there are the informational books. New baby will come. Mom and Dad will go to hospital and come back. Small baby won't be able to do anything. etc. Joanna Cole (yes, the Magic School Bus person) is an author who can do those books very straightforwardly, and they can be useful to introduce the subject:
These books have also gone through a redesign: these are the re-illustrated versions of what were books with bright red or blue covers.

Then there are the I-don't-want-this-baby-here books. They're often the best literature of the lot, because they tell good stories. See especially A Baby Sister for Frances in your 5/22 post. And the favorite in our house was always
Julius the Baby of the World
by Kevin Henkes (two syllables) with the flamboyant Lilly (of the Purple Plastic Purse) in the role of obnoxious older sibling. Much of the book is her very funny but intense comments on how much she dislikes new baby Julius. In the end, she's offended by a cousin making similar criticisms, and she rises to Julius' defense. Illustrations show that the siblings become fast friends. Because Lilly's feelings are so raw, this is not the first book you want to read with your soon-to-be older sibling. But for an older child, or some months into the new baby's life, it's very funny.

One other, new last year, which doesn't quite fit any of my categories above:
Surprise Soup
, by Mary Ann Rodman tells the story of two brothers and a father making soup for their mother as they await her arrival home with the new baby. Younger brother Kevie is constantly being put down or ignored by the older, and even Dad doesn't hear what he says -- Kevie's the only one who knows Mom's secret ingredient. All turns out well in the end, and it's a very cozy family story. Also a good reminder that life doesn't always revolve around the baby.


  1. I like Joanna Cole's books and Frances. We also like How to be a Baby by Me, the Big sister, by Sally Lloyd Jones and Sue Heap, I think. Its in the first category but very funny, but there is a pretty big age difference between the siblings, so its not always applicable. I also just (re)discovered Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats where Peter resents that all his old things, except his chair, have been painted pink for his new sister. But when he can't fit in the chair, he suggests they paint it pink. Sweet.

  2. I'm jotting down all these titles for our next library trip. Thanks, A&A!

  3. My absolute favorite new-baby-sibling book: Chuckie, by Nicki Weiss. Tone-perfect story of a little girl who's the apple of everyone's eye-- until her mom comes home from the hospital with a new baby, who gets all the attention. She torments him; he loves her anyway; happy ending ensues. Long out of print, I'll bet-- eBay search just now turned up only a group of Rugrats titles. But find it if you can--

    Uncle Al