Cain and Abel, the Antidote

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.

6 thoughts on “Cain and Abel, the Antidote

  1. Ooh, this is right up our alley. My son is almost 3.5 and his little sister is 14 months. He is a good big brother but I think jealousy and the need for attention are still very hard for him. I am totally going to buy this right away. Thank you so much!


  2. That looks like a great book. I love it that the new baby is so huge! I think that in kids’ books, often it seems that some rules are up for grabs (as in, a bear can live with a human child who is his mother), but others are immutable (like the new baby is smaller than the older sibling). I love the idea of a book that doesn’t accept that the “rules” have to stay.
    We recently acquired “Crispin and the 3 Little Piggies.” Apparently there are a number of Crispin books, but we haven’t read any others. But this one also does a great job of showing what a pain in the butt baby siblings can be. (And Megsie, if it helps, they’re triplets.) I like the way that Crispin goes through the stages of thinking it’s going to be terrible, then that it’s going to be fun, then the reality that it kind of sucks, then finally to the happy place where they all find something they love to do together. (Make Mom mad.)


  3. Hey I knew I recognized the author’s name. Elizabeth Winthrop wrote the Castle in the Attic! Which is a great book!
    I never sent in my boy book information because I was crazy busy and then on vacation. Is it too late and you’ve moved past that?


  4. This is a great post! We have another book that features Nora and Bear. Nora goes shopping (again) and Bear is left reluctantly with the babysitter. He worries that he’ll be sad, but of course he has too much fun. She may not be an “acclaimed” author but she gets kids’ fears.
    Loved hanging out with you this weekend. I linked to your blog in my post and my sister says she loves it. You gotta get a way to subscribe!!


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