Enough about the bigger issues, it's time to talk about books. And really I mean book, singular, a book that really saved my ass when things were tough, a book that eased a painful divide between Chestnut and Diana, a book that I have since recommended to about 1 million people, where it has gone on to spread peace and understanding. The book?
This was one of those look-it's-in-a-basket-at-the-back-of-the-store-and-smells-like-sour-milk-and-is-only-fifty-cents books. I knew not whence it came. (Don't worry, I mean in the larger sense, like: is this an author I should have heard about? Not: how did I get this book when I just told you I got it in a store). But there it was, and we brought it home, and the story is this:
Bear, a nice small bear, lives with Nora, a little girl much given to frills. She is his mother-ish person, and he is her bear. She tells him she's going to get him a baby sister, and he is very happy. He readies himself to be a good big brother when he is left with Mrs. Duck, the babysitter, by practicing giving a bottle, burping, and putting to bed a nice small doll. Then Nora comes home with Roly-Poly, his new baby sister! And here is what I love about this book: Roly-Poly is a massive screaming crying panda, about 10 times the size of bear (see cover). I think this is just exactly how new babies seem to their older siblings. They are expecting some nice tiny little sweet thing, and instead comes a raging monster, so much bigger (in their effects, at least) than they had expected. (Come to think of it, this is how parents experience babies too, at least I did.) Roly-Poly takes up all the room, makes all the noise, gets all the attention. Then one day Nora has to go out (though shopping, I believe, not work) and Bear is left with Roly-Poly and Mrs. Duck.
Now, I don't want to ruin it for you (I'm sure you're all on tenterhooks, or their equivalent, about just what happens. Not to worry: all the animals live, and that's all I'm saying) but it's just so much more true to an older sibling's experience than just about any other book I've read.* And reading it to many a beleaguered older sibling has seemed to really give them that feeling so many of us crave: you are not alone in an alien universe, not entirely, anyway. There are those who feel and think as you do. There is hope.
*For those looking for a book that is true to a mother's experience of being overwhelmed by a second (or third) child, see Hey, Little Baby, one of the only kids books I've seen that shows the mother being harried and messy and the whole house a hellish wreck where no one wears matching socks or is clean.