We Recommend: Happy Sibling Edition

It's time for We Recommend, in which  readers ask for suggestions, and we try our very hardest to come up with the perfect book in answer (and then you guys come up with even more amazing choices in the comments). Looking for a recommendation? E-mail us! We're very agreeable.

Today's query really resonated with me, because…well, check it out.

I'm currently pregnant with my second, a little boy, and have at 2.5 year old little girl.  We love to read together, and I would love to read her some books about new babies to help her prepare.  My problem is, all the books I seem to find deal with the jealousy issue, which I know will arise, but I don't want to plant the seed unnecessarily.  She seems to be influenced by the books we read, incorporating them into her play, so I don't feel like Julius, Baby of the World is the right book right now.  Once, the baby is here, and I see that she is feeling jealous, I'm happy to delve into the literary world of sibling rivalry, but would like to wait until it is an actual issue and read more stories that celebrate the role of older sister.  So far, she's enjoyed the Mercer Meyer's The New Baby, I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole, and A New Baby for Francis.

I remember this phenomenon! When I gave birth to the inimitable Chestnut, everyone wanted to give me books for Diana about the inevitable rage/pain/envy she was going to feel, and I remember thinking, "She's going to get there, people. Must we rush it?"

I mean, yes, it's terribly traumatic and all of that and, as my husband's older brother famously suggested, "We are not supposed to hit him, or kick him, or cut him up in a million pieces like bread. We are supposed to love him!" We all feel the painful truth of these words. But! There's more than just that, and it's a great thing to let a kid explore the rest of the possibilities, in a book at least.

And, of course, the reason I am so please to be writing about this is that for once, I think I have the right book! Yes, yes, I knw you will all have even more excellent suggestions. But this one is so good! Here we go:

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Please forgive the Amazon image, I couldn't find a better one and have given our copy away long ago.

This book is so freaking happy. It's got many excellent things going for it, chief among them is that it provides a very realistic image of the mom, who is always messy and disorganized and tired and in a bathrobe, or has food in her hair, but basically looks happy. The house is a disaster and the kids don't have matching socks, but everyone works it out, and the big sister in this case spends a whole lot of time bragging about all the stuff she can do in a very catchy sort of rhyming sing-song, and then it ends (spoiler alert!) with her saying, "And do you know what I'll do? I'll teach every one of these things to you." And if you're a sucker like me, or just very, very sleep-deprived, you will get a tear in your eye every time you read that part. This was just an excellent, winning book.

But Lord how I do go on and on. I've given it my best shot. Let's see what you guys have got in the comments.

16 thoughts on “We Recommend: Happy Sibling Edition

  1. This may be a little above a 2.5 year old, but it was perfect for my daughter who was a year older when our son was born:
    How to be a baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones
    Funny ans sweet and no jealousy, just a lot of emphasis on all of the cool things that big kids get know/do

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  2. I like Annie Kubler’s New Baby Series. They are wordless board books, which might be nice for your daughter to look at on her own, as well as for you to look at together and talk about what’s going on in the pictures. Waiting for Baby and My New Baby are both really nice, and they don’t focus on anything angsty.

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  3. I don’t remember the author, but the book my boys — both of them — loved was called “My Big Brother” — it had lots of large photos and sweet, sweet sentiments written to acknowledge the pride of the big brother toward his little brother. I think there is a big sister one, too.

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  4. Owen and Mzee – it’s about a giant tortoise and orphaned Pygmy hippo who become best friends. Obvs not specific to the new baby situation but worked well for us – we’d point out how, even though they have some differences, they love to spend time together, are kind to each other, etc. (basically, all the ways siblings might feel positively toward each other while leaving room for individuality).

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  5. I second “Waiting for Baby” and “My New Baby” by Annie Kubler – my son loved them and since there’s no words you can make the story fit your own situation. Just from seeing the images, my son described an ultrasound so well that the people at his childcare thought he had been there for one (I had wanted to take him but somehow it never worked out).
    We also had “Waiting for baby” by Harriet Ziefert – not so much about what it’s like to have a new baby in the house, but still a nice story of a little boy getting impatient for his baby sister to arrive.

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  6. Boy, do I hear you. When my 2 1/2-year-old daughter was preparing to get a new baby sister, I also wanted to avoid planting the idea that she would envy or hate her little sibling. Two books did the trick for us: “Baby, Come Out!” by Fran Manushkin doesn’t deal much with sibling relationships after birth, but it builds excitement about getting to meet the baby and is sweetly hilarious. The other one was… and please forgive the utter non-literary quality of this… “Big Sister Dora.” It involves Dora and finger puppets, and that was everything needed to win my daughter’s heart.

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  7. Consider all non-literary-ness instantly forgiven! Dora never had much action in our house, aside from a 2nd-grade revolt intended to demonstrate how grown-up everyone concerned was which mostly consisted of people saying things like, God, why doesnt she see the star? Its right there! What is she, blind? I think Doras blind, dont you? and other very grownup things like that.

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  8. The two that come to mind first are actually about big brothers, but I’m guessing gender isn’t as big an issue as the positive-ness (-ivity?) of them:
    What a Good Big Brother! by Diane Wright Landolf. (the title kind of says it all– it’s a lot about the ways he helps out)
    I’m Your Peanut-Butter Big Brother, by Selina Alko. This one is about wondering what the new baby in an interracial family will look like, but could be interesting as a jumping-off point for discussion about how babies are a combination of their parents’ looks, even if skin color isn’t such a noticeable thing within the family.

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  9. Especially good for grandmas to read because there is an important grandma in it, but good in general and still good after the new baby has turned into a toddler, is Tomie DiPaola’s ‘The Baby Sister’ (1999). It’s beautifully drawn and written, about a boy but very compelling for girls as well as grandmas. The most recent new big sister in my family can’t get enough of hearing it reread (and her little brother likes it too).

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  10. I’m late to this, but in addition to the books, I wanted to recommend the song “Cartwheels and Somersaults” by Justin Roberts from the Meltdown album. The gist of the song is that the family didn’t know they were missing anything until they had the baby sister and now all they can do is celebrate her. It’s super sweet – and a cheerful sounding song – not too sappy despite the themes.

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  11. I have had this post open in a window for several days because I empathized with it so much. My daughter was due when my son was a couple months past his second birthday. I too didn’t want to get much into the jealousy until it came up. However I also didn’t want to take the “the new baby will be nothing but awesomeness and unicorns!” approach because I felt like that was equally unhelpful. I did want to prepare him for the *weirdness* of having a new baby, when they cry, or have different sleep schedules, etc. etc.
    Over a year and a half later I still look for books that talk about siblings. We’ve definitely moved into jealousy but not in a rough way; but also as the baby becomes a toddler, new issues come up (the toddler gets into all the big kid’s stuff, etc.).
    So, these are what we’ve ended up with. I think at least half of them are courtesy of this blog!:
    Hello Baby! by Lizzy Rockwell is a nice explanation of what will happen. Also empowering: the baby cries but her big brother is the one that soothes her. This one’s been very popular here.
    Sisters Are for Making Sand Castles, by Harriet Ziefert. This one hasn’t gotten a lot of attention but I think it kind of got lost in the shuffle as it was more recently bought for us and my son’s interests have shifted. The older child is a girl, that may have to do with it.
    My New Baby, by Annie Kubler–see other posters above!
    We Have a Baby, Cathryn Falwell–very simple, got a lot of reading around the time of #2’s arrival
    I’m a Big Brother, Joanna Cole (think there is a big sister version too…)–this one doesn’t talk about jealousy but does emphasize all the things the big kid can do, including helping taking care of the baby, and a little of what babies can’t–very positive though
    –also Hey Little Baby, definitely a DitW (Diamond in the Window) blog rec!
    I also liked these books, which touch upon jealousy/rivalry, but either have a lot of other useful information, and allow for general rewording, or focus on the isseu but treat it with a lot of subtlety or metaphor:
    The New Baby (Fred Rogers, sniff, may he rest in peace). Very awesome. Lots of explaining about babies, just a little bit about jealousy. Also shows breastfeeding, if that’s important to you.
    The New Baby at Your House, by Joanna Cole. Very much like the Fred Rogers book. More explanation of some negative feelings, but also some really great photos of babies, sibling interactions, Mom in the hospital (but not at all scary), etc. Also breastfeeding.
    On Mother’s Lap, by Ann Herbert Scott. A fave here; jealousy is implied but very gently.
    Tadpoles, by Betsy James. It’s hard for the big sister to let go of tadpoles when they’re frogs; parallels the difficulty of growing up and adjusting to her baby brother. Very sweet.
    Bear and Roly-Poly, by Patience Brewster, also previously recommended by DitW. Very weird art and sort of weird story (I think) but also compelling, and again a sort of implied exploration of jealousy.
    Whew! I don’t know if this is too late to be helpful, but I was so grateful for all the recommendations I got from here that I really wanted to give back. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out the other new recommendations above!

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  12. When my daughter was 18 months and we were waiting for little brother to arrive, we read a lot of Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers. The illustrations are adorable, and I enjoyed seeing the variety of families, all caring their babies in different ways.

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