“It’s Big Sister Time” by Nandini Ahuja

It’s Big Sister Time by Nadini Ahuja

Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Harper Collins Publishers

New York 2021

IBSN: 9780062884381

Ages 2 – 4 years

Review by Cath Young

“It’s Big Sister Time” by Nadini Ahuja focuses on the growing acceptance and inclusion of a new baby in the family, by an older sibling. The story is told in first person from the point of view of the big sister. It begins humourously, as she accepts the permanence of the baby, asking her Mum how long the baby will be staying with them. Gradually, with some prompting and support from her parents, the big sister learns to adapt to the new situation and begins to thrive. There are inevitable setbacks to the growing relationship which may be recognisable to the reader, such as when the baby knocks over a tower of blocks built by the big sister.  The reader is left in no doubt about the Big Sister’s initial lack of enthusiasm for the new addition, as a list of complaints about Baby is drawn up.  But the Big Sister takes on board the job of teaching Baby the “house rules” and in doing so makes space for the baby and renegotiates her own boundaries and role within the family. By the conclusion of the book the Big Sister describes the Baby and herself as “a team”.

There are many points within the story where carers or parents could stop and discuss similarities in their own families, such as when Baby makes a mess or needs to be included in family movie night, which requires the Big Sister to adjust her expectations. In the case of the movie night the big sister decides that she can now hold the baby instead of the popcorn, ensuring that she can still sit in the middle of Mum and Dad, thus retaining her importance within the family.

Through the colourful and culturally inclusive illustrations of Catalina Echeverri the reader can see the baby grow from new-born to toddler as the Big Sister grows into her role within a culturally blended family. The culturally blended family is represented by a variety of skin tones. The cartoon-like people, drawn with exaggerated eyes, could be interpreted by the reader to reflect their own backgrounds.   The faces are simplistic, but their expressive eyebrows, lips and eyes depict a wide range of emotion, which would serve as reference points for discussion between parent/carer and child as the reader observes the big sister’s reactions to various situations in the story.

The smaller size square hardcover format allows for portability and would stand up to the occasional bite of a baby sibling.

Frizzle and Me by Ellie Royce and Andrew McLean

Frizzle and Me

Ellie Royce (author) and Andrew McLean (Illustrator)
Ford St: 2021
ISBN: 9781925804744
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

As one child’s blended rainbow family grows and grows, the roles that make everyone important for that child stay the same.

Frizzle and Me is a heart-warming, humorous story that balances its emphasis on change and stability perfectly. It is told in the first person by the child protagonist; as the family grows year by year the child unsurprisingly seeks reassurance and at every turn is met with positivity and love. This process of seeking and receiving comfort creates a familiar rhythmic refrain that means the story’s emphasis on reassurance is right at its core in the very words as you speak them, and your child anticipates them. The artworks also show the development of the family members’ roles over time which creates a subtle sense of change not only in the family make-up but also how each adult relates to the child. These layers of change and stability mean that this story always feels authentic even though the adult relationships may seem idyllic to some readers.

The artworks are a treat in many different ways. They are full of colour, action, and affection with spreads that explore the whole family’s interaction as well as the way the child relates to specific adults. The artworks also allow kids the opportunity to follow the exploits of favourite toys and furry members of the family not mentioned in the text. These extra details are sure to delight curious readers, adding humour, heart and interest.

Frizzle and Me is a beautiful story for any family wanting to emphasise connection and explore what changes and what stays the same in a family filled with love.