It’s Big Sister Time by Nadini Ahuja
Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
Harper Collins Publishers
New York 2021
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.