Kid's Stuff -- Books About Siblings & New Babies
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Is Baby Number Two on the way? Or maybe #3...? Well, there are about a million bazillion books on the subject of how to handle potential sibling tensions or rivalries... Here's a sampling of some of the books on the subject, so you can (hopefully) talk your older kid(s) through some of the changes to come. I've only reviewed (and added grades to) the books that I myself have read, although in a few cases I might give some of the plot info, if it seems like it might be useful. You might also try clicking through to Amazon to read other people's reviews, to get a better sense of whether these books would be right for you and your family. Hope this helps! (Any suggestions for other books? We'd love to hear 'em!)




"There's A House Inside My Mommy"
Written by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Vanessa Cabban
(Albert Whitman & Co, 2002)

An exemplary mommy-is-pregnant book, in which the parents tell their child that mommy has a new baby inside her, living in its own special house until it's ready to come out. The little boy accepts this explanation, then starts to wonder what life is like inside this tummy-house. When Mommy gets really big, he even starts to get concerned that there might not be enough room in there for his future sibling, and looks forward to the birth. It's a nice book, teaching children empathy for their siblings and maintains a thoroughly reassuring tine throughout, and it doesn't really fudge on the facts about Mommy being pregnant. If you're looking for a book to read to a future big-brother or big-sister, this one's a fine choice.
(B+)


"What's Inside?"
Written by Jeanne Ashbe
Illustrated by Jeanne Ashbe
(Kane Miller, 1999)


(-)


"And After That..."
Written by Jeanne Ashbe
Illustrated by Jeanne Ashbe
(Kane Miller, 2002)


(-)


"When I Am A Sister"
Written by Robin Ballard
Illustrated by Robin Ballard
(Greenwillow, 2002)

This one tackles some dense emotional topics... A young girl is not only contemplating having a new baby in her life, it's also the baby of her new step mother, not her birth mom, so things are just a little more complicated here. I haven't read this one, but it seems to get good reviews...
(-)


"I Used To Be The Baby"
Written by Robin Ballard
Illustrated by Robin Ballard
(Greenwillow, 2002)

A nice, straightforward story about an older child (maybe three or four years old?) who is adjusting to his new role as the "big" one... He's a model sibling, playing with the baby, helping feed him and take him to the park, reading him books, and everything in between. It's nice, uncomplicated modeling for positive behavior... The only sour note for the more overprotective among us is one page in which the kids are parked in front of the TV... Other than that, though, everything in here is positive and appropriate, if a bit overly idealistic. Not dramatically engaging or particularly exciting, but good, functional pro-baby propaganda. (B)


"My Mom's Having A Baby"
Written by Dori Hilstad Butler
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
(Albert Whitman & Co., 2005)

(-)


"Along Came Eric"
Written by Gus Clarke
Illustrated by Gus Clarke
(Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1991)

A playful book about sibling rivalry and feelings of displacement. Young Nigel feels happy and secure, well-loved and well-liked, at least until his cute little brother Eric comes along, and then everyone starts to shift their attention towards the new baby. Even Nigel's friends seem to like the baby better! This only lasts a little while, though -- in a couple of years, the age difference evaporates and people start thinking of them as "Nigel and Eric," and Nigel feels fine about things again... But then -- zingo! -- comes the surprise ending where another little baby, Alice, enters the picture. Oh, noooooo! This book takes a nice, light approach, and might be nice for low-key discussions on the topic.
(B+)


"One Smiling Sister"
Written by Lucy Coats
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
(Dorling Kindersley, 2002)

Mildly disappointing in that the title has very little to do with the theme of the book (I thought it would be a book about sibling relations, when in fact it's about a small child going off to nursery school. Even more confusing, the "smiling sister" is the one going to school, although the first page, in which she smiles, is the only one seen from the perspective of her infant sibling; the rest of the book is from her point of view. Editors? Hello?) Anyway, once you get past that, this is a decent book -- shows kids in a school environment smiling and engaged in a variety of happy events, and is also structured as a counting book ("one smiling sister... two twins in a rush..." etc.) Worth checking out.
(B-)


"I'm A Big Brother"
Written by Joanna Cole
Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss
(Harper Collins, 1997)

(-)


"I'm A Big Sister"
Written by Joanna Cole
Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss
(Harper Collins, 1997)

Gender balance! Well, that's only fair, I guess... (-)


"Will There Be A Lap For Me?"
Written by Dorothy Corey
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Albert Whitman & Co., 1992)

A little boy named Kyle feels gradually displaced as one of his favorite places -- his mother's lap -- literally shrinks away as her pregnancy comes to full term. Then, after the birth, the mother is so busy taking care of the new baby that Kyle feels forgotten. However, Mom sets aside a special time to let Kyle snuggle up, and he feels reassured. The book doesn't dwell on negativity: we also see the boy expressing affection for the baby, and the parents include him in the whole process. A sweet book; deals with the issues of displacement simply and straightforwardly, and also reminds parents how important "little" moments can be in thelife of a child. Worth checking out! (B)


"Za-Za's Baby Brother"
Written by Lucy Cousins
Illustrated by Lucy Cousins
(Candlewick, 1995)

The mastermind behind the "Maisy" empire plies her hand at sibling relations and comes up with this cheerful, pro-baby winner. Using very simple text and her trademark bold, simple artwork, Cousins shows a little zebra (of indeterminate gender) named Za-Za anticipating the birth of the new baby, being excited when it comes, and then feeling neglected when all the time and attention goes the baby's way. Za-Za starts to get really bummed out about the situation (and you'll feel sorry for him/her, too!) until Mama Zebra suggests that Za-Za play get a hug from the baby, instead of waiting for one from her. That works. Za-Za discovers the baby is fun to play with, and when it finally oges to sleep, Mama and Daddy actually do have time for stories and hugs. If you just want to pump in positive messages, while still acknowledging some of the problems a new baby can bring, this is a very good book. Nice, loving family, as well. (A)


"Darcy And Gran Don't Like Babies"
Written by Jane Cutler
Illustrated by Susannah Ryan
(Farrar Strauss Giraux, 1993)

A new baby/sibling rivalry book with a reverse-psychology twist. When Darcy's baby brother is born, she tries acting out, telling every adult she can how she doesn't like the way the baby looks, smells, etc. Most of the adults deflect her negativity, but when her grandmother visits, she pretends to embrace it, saying, oh, I don't enjoy babies much either. Using low-key reverse psychology, she "agrees" with Darcy that babies are boring and make too much work for everyone, and that they smell funny. Then, during a fun-filled trip to the park, Darcy begins to pick away at her grandmother's apparent negativism... By the end of the book, she's primed to accept that while a baby might not be fun now, later he will be. I suppose this is a pretty good book on the topic, particularly if your intended audience is a little bit older -- oh, say, five years old or more... Like many books on this topic, it's probably better that you don't get this one unless you're already seeing some negative behavior about the baby... But if the feelings are already there, this book might help deal with them. (B-)


"It's Time!"
Written by Kathleen W. Deady
Illustrated by Patricia Newton
(Harper's Festival, 2002)

The animals in the barnyard go running around saying, "It's time! It's time! It's time!" Turns out Mama Dog is having a new litter of puppies. Not much else to the plot, just a simple, happy story about childbirth. Nice artwork, not much depth to the text. (C)


"The Baby Sister"
Written by Tommy DePaola
Illustrated by Tommy DePaola
(G. Putman & Son's, 1996)

A little boy named Tommy can't wait to meet his soon-to-be-born sibling, but is left with his aunt while Mom goes to the hospital. He loves his auntie, but she is a stern, tradition-oriented Italian-American who disapproves of children knowing too much about childbirth, and isn't much fun to spend the days with while mom is in labor. The story is set in the past, so part of the suspense is that they won't know the gender of the baby until it's born (no sonograms...) and while the drama of the book gets sidetracked onto the conflict between the little boy and his aunt, when the baby does come home, it's quite touching. The little boy holds his sister in his lap and proclaims himself the happiest boy in the whole wide world. Awwwwwwww. Oh, and Tommy and Aunt Nell make up, too, so everything is fine in the end. (B-)


"A Special Someone"
Written by Jan Fearnley
Illustrated by Jan Fearnley
(Egmont Books, 2004)

A mother who is expecting a second child tells her young daughter that there's a "special something" inside her tummy, and the little girl speculates about what it could be: a scary dinosaur? a bouncy kangaroo? a big hippopottamus? a hungry crocodile? There are several books out there that take this tact, of comically exploring the anxieties children may have about mommy being pregnant. This approach doesn't really resonate for me -- why not just tell the child it's a baby? Unless you're making a game of it (ie, with Mommy or Daddy saying, "Is it a crocodile?" and the child saying, "Noooooo! It's a baby!") what is the point of all the fantastical thinking? Also, the imagined in-the-tummy animals are doing all kinds of chaotic, disruptive things. I read these books and think, wow, that kid is really being left adrift -- why don't the parents in these books just explain to her what's going on? And why don't they address her fears directly? Just because the the mother eventually gives birth and the girl sees a cuddly baby in her arms (the "happy ending") doesn't mean all those "silly" anxieties are going to evaporate. But maybe that's just me. Other people may have different approaches and results may vary. (C)


"My Big Sister"
Written by Valorie Fisher
Illustrated by Valorie Fisher
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2003)

In general, I'm not a big fan of photographic picturebooks, but this one has a wit and sparkle to it that's quite nice and refreshing. It's a new baby/siblings book with a twist, told from the viewpoint -- literally -- of the new baby, who looks up adoringly at a gangly, vivacious older sister, who shares her toys and plays with the infant. The first picture is of the older sister's feet, her tennis shoes and skinny ankles, a hint at the cleverness within. Finally at the end we get to see the little baby, too, smiling brightly into a mirror toy that the big sister hold up. Pretty cute! (A)


"My Big Brother"
Written by Valorie Fisher
Illustrated by Valorie Fisher
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2003)

And, for gender balance, there's the boy version as well... Also pretty adorable. (A)


"Scribble"
Written by Deborah Freedman
Illustrated by Deborah Freedman
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)

This book expects a lot from its readers, but it pays off well. It works on several levels -- as a fairytale-related lark, as a book about visual art and creative thinking, and as a snapshot of sibling conflict. Two sisters, Emma and Lucie, are each drawing their own pictures... Emma, the older child, is in the middle of a complicated princess fantasy, and made a really fancy picture of the princess in her sleeping-beauty bed, while little Lucie has scrawled out a scribbly yellow kitty kat. After Emma makes fun of Lucie's picture, Lucie retaliates by scribbling all over the princess. Emma leaves in a huff, off to tell the 'rents, and that's when things get weird. Lucie and her cat get sucked into the pink construction paper world of the princess, and the only way back out is for Lucie to erase all the scribbly lines she plastered over the page. In the meantime, the cat and the princess have fallen in love, and formed their own fairytale romance. The plot is complicated and fantastical, and may be hard for younger children to follow, but it hits a certain kooky, whimsical tone that the right readers will love. Worth checking out. (B)


"This Is The Day!"
Written by Phillis Gershator
Illustrated by Marjorie A. Priceman
(Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

(-)


"Mr. Bear's New Baby"
Written by Debi Gliori
Illustrated by Debi Gliori
(Scholastic Books, 1999)

A newborn baby causes havoc by crying non-stop all night long. Various animal neighbors come by and offer remedies and advice, but nothing works until the older sibling suggests that the infant just wants to cuddle up in "the big bed" with Mommy and Daddy, which totally works. Not sure who this book is really written for -- seems like it's for new parents, mostly. From a child's point of view, there's a lot of chaos associated with new babies, although it is nice that it's the sibling who comes up with the solution. Anyway, turns out this is really an attachment parenting propaganda piece, which is all very well and fine, although it should be pointed out that attachment parenting can have some drawbacks... Yes, the baby may stop crying now, but what happens later, further down the road? (C+)


"Brand New Baby"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2000)

(-)


"My Dog, My Cat, My Mama, And Me!"
Written by Nigel Gray
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 1998/2007)

A modest but charming lift-the-flap book about childbirth and pregnancy. A young girl notices a lot of family members getting big tummies -- first the dog, then the cat -- and when she looks inside their hidey-holes after they get slender again, she discovers that they have had puppies or kittens (as the case may be). By the time her mother starts to swell up, the girl knows what's going on, and is delighted to find that mama had a baby, too -- four of them, in fact! There aren't many flaps -- one for the cat, one for the dog, and one for the babies' stroller -- but the message of the book comes through clearly, and the cheerfulness will be welcome to families where additional little ones are on the way. Plus, love that Bob Graham art! (Originally published in the UK as Full House) (B)


"Shirley's Wonderful Baby"
Written by Valiska Gregory
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Harper Collins, 2002)

Blechh. This book is just so drenched in negativity and convoluted plot points... it's not much fun, or (I would imagine), particularly helpful. Shirley is a little hippopotamus girl whose new infant brother makes her fume with jealousy. Each page features a Shirley pouting on the floor, wondering how any adult could love a drooly baby who "looks like a prune" or has "legs like a turkey..." The first half of the story wallows in her sourness and nasty tone, which the mother and father hippo cheerfully ignore. It isn't until a beatific nanny, Ms. Mump, shows up and pretends to agree with Shirley that the older sister starts to stick up for her little brother, and to show an interest in helping take care of him. I dunno, maybe this approach works, maybe not. Probably depends on the kid. But as far as the ultra-negative tone of the story goes, I figure this one is best left in the don't-put-ideas-in-their-head category. Plus, the resolution is dramatically weak, so the"positive" message is unlikely to get through to the kids who need it. I hated this story. Didn't care for the artwork much, either. (D)


"Lisa's Baby Sister"
Written by Anne Gutman
Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
(Hachette Jeunesse/Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)

Uh-oh. The troublesome little rabbit Lisa with a new baby sister? Look out! With a sibling on the way, Lisa is unhappy and jealous, and vows never to speak to it or play with it after it's born. She changes her mind, though, once she gets to spend time with the baby, and decides it would make a pretty cool toy. This book is an honest (and genuinely funny) exploration of some deep negative emotions, and may be of use to parents whose kids are, indeed, upset by having to share the nest with a new sibling. If, however, your child seems okay with the whole situation, don't expose them to this story -- it may raise issues and feelings that would be otherwise best left well enough alone. (These are some pretty funny sequences in here, though, that adults may get a kick out of; great artwork, too. But adults may get more out of this than little kids...)
(B)




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