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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My sister, my sister

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Yes,  Isabel is getting into longer books.  Not full-on chapter books yet, though that will come in the next year, I think.  At close to 2 1/2, she mostly wants long picture books: both last night and tonight, the lineup included Make Way for Ducklings and Monsieur Saguette and his Baguette.

She has a good attention span for beginning reader books, too -- the kind with five or six short, connected chapters.  The first of these to capture Isabel's attention, several months ago, was a gift from you: The Golly Sisters Go West, by Betsy Byars.

The Golly sisters, Rose and May-May, are a pair of sibling performers in the Old West.  They set off at the beginning of the book in a wagon stocked with costumes, drawn by a patient horse, planning to perform in towns in the west along their way.  They are a little hapless (the first story is about figuring out how to get the horse to move, and to stop), but for the most part confident and competent: there's a reference to pursuing their dreams of singing and dancing even though people told them they wouldn't make it, and their shows appear to be well-attended.

One of the great pleasures of this book is the sibling bickering.  There's a lot of talk about who gets to go first on stage (I'm guessing this rang true to you and your girls), and some mild insulting of each other:

"I want to go first," said Rose.
"You got to wear the blue dress, so I get to go first," said May-May.
"I got to wear the blue dress because you look funny in blue," said Rose.
"Who says I look funny in blue?" asked May-May.
"Everybody!" said Rose.
"Give me the name of one person who says I look funny in blue."
"Everybody!" said Rose.
"I knew it," said May-May.  "You cannot think of one person."
"I can."
"Then who?"
"Hmmmm, let me think," said Rose.

By the time they resolve the argument and open the curtain, their audience has gotten bored and left.  Rose and May-May, undaunted, perform for the dogs who are still hanging around.  Taking the kind of petty back and forth that siblings so often get into and making it funny, as Byars does, with the help of Sue Truesdell's illustrations, is a nice way to poke fun at it.

Our most exciting news of the week is that Eleanor is truly starting to learn to read.  I'm looking forward to the day -- not so far off -- when she can read the Golly Sisters to Isabel herself.

Love, Annie

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