Format: Picture book
Author and illustrator: Lauren Child
Publisher: Puffin (published October 2014)
Elmore Green had things pretty much the way he liked them. He could watch his favourite shows on his own TV, no one moved any of his belongings when he had them all lined up on the floor, and he never had to share his jellybeans, not even the orange ones.
Elmore Green’s parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen. And Elmore Green liked that because it is nice to be the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person someone has ever seen.
But then one day everything changed.
The New Small Person is a refreshing and funny look at becoming a big brother for the first time from the perspective of Elmore Green…who doesn’t particularly want to be a big brother. Sometimes the small person would come into Elmore’s room and knock things over and sit on things that didn’t want to be sat on. Once it actually licked Elmore’s jelly bean collection, including the orange ones. As anyone knows, jelly beans that have been licked are NOT nearly so nice.
Lauren Child’s light-hearted text and impish mixed-media collages show the world from the perspective of a child, where grown-ups are seen primarily as knees, and little people like Elmore Green are not always at the top of everyone’s priority list. Elmore Green continues to refuse to acknowledge the presence of “the new small person,” even when the small person moves its bed into Elmore Green’s room. Only when the new small person helps Elmore Green through a scary dream and begins to appreciate the importance of lining up possessions in a long straight line does Elmore Green begin to think that the new small person might have something to offer. Eventually, Elmore calls his brother Albert by name and offers to share his jelly beans with him.
But not the orange ones.
Elmore Green is a likeable and highly relateable character for young kiddos; quite frankly, I like and relate to Elmore Green. A great book for a new big brother or sister. Also, how lovely, in a world where talking animals are more common than main characters who are people of colour, to be seeing more picture books with main characters who are not white!
Format: Picture book
Author: Annette Sheldon
Illustrator: Karen Maizel
Publisher: Magination Press (published August 2005)
Rare is the book that explains challenging topics to young readers clearly without talking down to them. Big Sister Now: A Story About Me and Our New Baby by Annette Sheldon hits the mark perfectly. Kate is not sure how she feels about her new baby brother, Daniel. (“I don’t know how to be a big sister. It feels all different.” “I feel like they forgot me.”) Daniel takes up her parents’ time and attention (the illustration of the harried mother when Daniel “cried and cried” will be very relatable for any parent who’s ever felt at a loss with a crying infant and a demanding toddler) and Kate is not impressed. With help from loving parents and Grandma, though, Kate learns to embrace her new role as big sister and learns that even though she’s not the only child anymore, she is still special and loved — and it still feels “warm and safe and lovey.” The back of the book offers some great tips for parents expecting a new addition; author Annette Sheldon is a storyteller, preschool specialist, and librarian with four children and ten grandchildren, so she should know!
Format: Board book
Author: Susan Meyers
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Publisher: Harcourt (published Sept. 2004)
This charming book uses simple, rhythmic rhyme and delightfully detailed illustrations to draw young readers into the world of babies all over the world: “Every day, everywhere, babies are born — fat babies, thin babies, small babies, tall babies, winter and spring babies, summer and fall babies.” The everyday lives of babies are captured and celebrated lyrically and visually: toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy pointing out familiar items and activities. I consider this book to be a blow for The Powers of Good in the Mommy Wars: a gentle, positive reminder that babies are raised in different ways in different places and we parents are all just doing the best we can. The illustrations depict families and parents of all sorts, including what I think is a same-sex couple, feeding, transporting, and enjoying their babies in all kinds of ways. The message is a lovely one: “Every day, everywhere, babies are loved — for trying so hard, for traveling so far, for being so wonderful…just as they are!”
This would be the perfect gift for a new big sister or brother, who will love combing through the intricate illustrations and will find new pleasures with every read.
If you like this, you might like Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox.