Books for soon-to-be-siblings

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 12:58 PM

I’ve recently begun the Catie-G’ma Bookclub, an attempt to keep connected with my long-distance 2-year-old granddaughter. It all began a couple months after my Christmas mailing and my son told me that the packages I sent wrapped arrived unwrapped. Standing in line at the post office several months later, I was thinking about a solution to better book sending and missing my little Catie like crazy when I spotted these wild looking festive mailers. She’s not yet 2 1/2 years old, but already her father reports that when those envelopes arrive, she knows there’s a book inside just for her and the goofy looking envelope is from her G’ma who loves her from afar.
Catie’s little brother will arrive in less than two months and recently her mommy asked me if the G'ma-Catie Bookclub might think about including some sibling books. It’s a bit difficult to find books that will be meaningful to a toddler-sibling-to-be, but I’ve found several.
Il Sung Na's “A Book of Babies”  (Knopf, ages 2-4) has colorful art, few words and gives a glorious overview of the animal world “when the flowers begin to bloom and the world starts turning green, animals everywhere are born…” from the noisy ducklings to smooth-scaled lizards. The animals are rarely named and that leaves young children a place to join in the telling.
Karen Katz is a go-to author. Her books are totally in tune with developmental levels.  Her art work is colorful and bold, her sturdy pages have flaps that given extra engagement, and the simple text makes situations so straightforward and clear. She has two great books for young siblings-to-be. “Now I'm Big!” (McElderry, ages 2-3) is a series of situations relating how everything has improved for toddlers since their babyhood. On one side you see how babies function while the opposing page gives a more mature perspective. Toddlers of all genders and ethnicities feel pride in the fact they can feed themselves, dress themselves, wear underpants, and last, help with the baby. She takes a similar approach in “Best-Ever-Big-Sister” and “Best-Ever-Big Brother” (both from Grosset and Dunlap, ages 2-4).
Sara Gillingham’s “Snuggle the Baby” (Abrams, ages 2-4) gives interactive baby practice in book form as toddlers can lift flaps to tickle tummies, show the baby favorite game of so big and swaddle it into a tight cocoon. Play, feeding, dressing and all the typical baby practices make for fun teaching in this sturdy board book.
Lola Schafer has two companion books for young children. “One Special Day” pictures Spencer, an imaginative brother-to-be waiting for his sister’s birth and “One Busy Day” shows Mia, that little sister, trying to get her big brother’s attention (both from Hyperion, 2-6). Wordless scenes set the stage for both, allowing lots of talk-about-it possibilities and the siblings are both active and imaginative models who are, overall, a loving pair.  
There are other books worth mentioning for older siblings-to-be:
Sophie Blackwell’s “The Baby Tree” (Nancy Paulsen Books, ages 3-6) is a fanciful picture of a small child who learns he’s going to have a sibling and has an important question: “Are there any more cocopops?” This sets the tone for authenticity and wondering as the book continues with adults giving him conflicting answers to where babies come from — grow from a seed on a baby tree, from storks, from an egg.  Finally he gets the true picture from his parents.
Amy Young’s “Don’t Eat the Baby!” (Viking, ages 3-6) features Tom who flies superfast in his superhero cape, can do two somersaults in a row and calls his new baby the Blob.  His brother is good at pooping, sleeping and crying really loudly. In a unique twist, he gets over feeling invisible and ignored and comes around to protecting his little brother led by fear of adult’s idioms … his grandma could “just take a big bite out of him,” his aunt wants to eat him up. Lots of humor along the way in this read.
Carol Diggory Shields gives a baby’s perspective in “Baby’s Got the Blues” (Candlewick, ages 2-5) in string of rhyming laments that have a strong bluesy rhythm.  What’s a baby to do when he has those “baby stinkeroos” blues when it “woke up this morning soggy,/And that smell kept getting riper. /But I can’t talk, no way to say, /Won’t somebody change my diaper?” Similar troubles of toothlessness, attempts to walk and be locked up in a crib help siblings and parents to laugh!
Sylvie Kantorovitz’s “The Very Tiny Baby” (Charlesbridge, ages 3-6) is a perfect blend of facts and emotions about preemie babies. The hero is Jacob, the only child of buoyant parents and a grandmother, who become anxious when the baby comes early.  The author-illustrator has struck the perfect blend of facts and feelings in both pictures and words to help siblings understand health issues, hospital practices and homecoming so that they become welcoming siblings.