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ROUNDUP: Becoming a Big Brother or Sister

reviewed by Kay Marner



My son, Aaron, was an only child for six blissful years before welcoming a two-year-old sister from Russia. Now he's nine, and an expert big brother. The hardest part of becoming a sibling, he says, is sharing your stuff. The coolest part is having someone to "overrule." Four new picture books corroborate my expert's findings, and make another important point: Becoming a sibling is not just about the hard stuff or the cool stuff. It's about the stuff you learn along the way.

My Mei Mei
written and illustrated by Ed Young
Philomel; $16.99
>>> Ed Young's new book, My Mei Mei, is a gift: It tells his own family's story, wrapped in some of the most beautiful artwork ever to grace a children's book. His daughter, Antonia, can only pretend to be a Jieh- Jieh, a big sister, until she travels with her parents to China to bring home a Mei Mei, a little sister. At first, being Rachel's big sister isn't as wonderful as Antonia imagined, but she grows into the role. This is a lovely book for any sisters, and a must-read for sisters brought together through adoption from China.

Just Add One Chinese Sister: An Adoption Story
by Patricia McMahon and Conor Clarke McCarthy, illustrated by Karen A. Jerome
Boyds Mills Press; $16.95
>>> "Finally," I tell my daughter, Natalie, "the mamas brought you into the big room where Daddy and I were waiting, and you said…."

"Mama. Papa." she says on cue.

"And we loved you right away."

If, like me, you enjoy snuggling up with your daughter and re-telling her adoption story, you'll love Just Add One Chinese Sister. In this book, a mom recounts her daughter's adoption story as they create her lifebook.

"That first night," I tell my son, Aaron, "you saw Natalie rocking in her bed and asked me what she was doing. I told you she'd never had a mommy or daddy to rock her to sleep, so she learned to rock herself. And you said, ‘If everyone saw her rock, then everyone would be sad.' And I knew you were going to be an awesome big brother."

And, if, like me, you enjoy snuggling up with your son and re-telling the story of how he became a big brother, you'll love Conor Clarke McCarthy's insightful journal entries that accompany the main text.

What the No-Good Baby Is Good For
Elise Broach, illustrated by Abby Carter
Putnam; $15.99
>>> In this story, a new brother decides, "after weeks and weeks, and months and months, and more than half a year," that it's time for that no-good baby to go. His mom helps him pack up the baby's stuff and gets ready to send her off—for one whole day at Grandma's house. Then, Mom and son have a whole day of "just us." This story is a lighthearted acknowledgement that our older children need time and attention more than ever after a new sibling comes along.

Barfburger Baby, I Was Here First
by Paula Danziger, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Putnam; $16.99
>>> When Aaron finished this book, the smile on his face made him look like he'd gotten away with something. "I think one kid, ME, was just right," says Jonathan, the narrator. He's angry with his parents, his Grandma and Poppop, his cousins—the world. He expresses his disgust with lots of "Grrrr"-ing and nearly-naughty name-calling. It's not until he joins the Big Brother Club that he sees the positive side. Danziger gives kids permission to "Grrr," then, keeping her toe right on the line between naughty and nice, she leaves them smiling.

KAY MARNER is a mother by birth and adoption. She works for the public library in Ames, Iowa.


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