Jennifer Ann Mann is the author of the just-published Sunny Sweet Is So Not Sorry. Here she recommends five other middle grade books starring siblings.
Growing up as the second of four sisters, I felt
totally alone in my angst of dealing with one “very bossy” big sister and two “highly
annoying” little sisters. Tiger sand sharks simply eat their siblings at birth.
And if you knew my sisters the way I knew my sisters, this would have seemed quite
reasonable at the time. However, social norms clearly steered me away from this
solution. So then what?
So then Beverly Cleary.
My wonderful childhood librarian, Miss Bryant,
understood my situation and handed me Beezus
and Ramona. It was as if Cleary had reached inside me and scratched an itch
that I wouldn't have reached for years. This horrendous situation I was in…it
was normal! Who knew?
Judy Blume did.
I desperately needed supporting data and discovered Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Peter walked
me through the confusing and conflicting feelings that it was possible to absolutely
want to kill your sibling but still hope they didn’t die after swallowing your
pet turtle. (I am still waiting for my puppy, though!) Beezus, Ramona, Peter,
and Fudge gave me the confidence to not only deal with my sisters, but maybe
even, for just a moment, understand them a tiny, tiny bit.
And understanding is what Sam and Tim finally gave each other, and with
their beautiful story, what brothers James Lincoln and Christopher Collier gave
The first time I read My Brother Sam Is Dead I was ten years old and was convinced that older
brother Sam was a horrible big brother. The next time I read it I quickly came
to the conclusion that younger brother Tim was indecisive and whiny. But I’ll
never forget the time I read it and the true meaning of their story hit me. I
read the last line, "And then he stopped jerking” and I was off and
running to hug the first sister I could find. Siblings teach us who we
are...and who we can be.
If Masha and Sunny Sweet, my characters in Sunny Sweet Is So Not Sorry owe a
debt to the Quimbys, the Hatchers, and the Meekers, they also owe a debt to the
Baudelaires of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
"Klaus took Violet's other hand, and Sunny took
Klaus's other hand, and in this manner the three Baudelaire children --the
Baudelaire orphans, now --were led away from the beach and from their previous
lives." The bond between the Baudelaires is what keeps the series of
unfortunate events from feeling so unfortunate that you stop reading. You
instantly know that whatever misfortunes might lie ahead, these three will have
each other's back. I never get tired of their collaboration—the word
“collaboration” here means “teamwork.” Siblings are our original teammates,
although each of us still needs to find our own place in the world, and the
first people in the way of this? Our siblings.
This leads me to my fifth and final favorite middle grade sibling read,
Tamera Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing, which just recently debuted.
This is a tale of one brother and one sister and one
fishing trip that one of them doesn’t belong on (hint: it’s the sister). Lucy
is slow and loud and sings to the fishes. Sam laments, "She cannot be
quiet. It's worse than I feared. This day would be perfect if she disappeared."
It's Sam's day and Sam's sport -- that is until it turns into Lucy's day and
Lucy's sport. She catches eight. Sam catches none. But when Sam's luck changes,
it's Lucy who is first to cheer. As siblings, we are placed in a “too close for
comfort” situation that has us dreaming of taking the sand tiger shark approach
and eating up our problem, or at least, wishing it would disappear. But in the
end, being squished into that same little boat, we might just as easily cheer
each other on.