Simply put, I love having Sharon Couto of Mom Generations in my corner; she's smart, funny, inspiring, and deeply supportive of her family and friends. In the past I've joked about wanting to become an honorary member of her family (I also adore Sharon's daughters, Audrey and Jane). Sharon is a former English teacher and has undertaken the impressive project 365 Days of Literacy for Kids, so for today's four favorites guest post, I asked Sharon to recommend her four favorite books about siblings/family.
It's been 30 years and a few months since I had my last baby, my baby Jane Hillary.
Back then, it was rare to have learned the gender of a baby before the moment of birth, so while we waited with great anticipation for this new addition to our family of 5 soon-to-be 6, there was lots of speculation about this baby. Boy or girl? was the primary curiosity, of course. Older brothers Keith and Adam (at the time, 9 and 6, respectively) were pretty much okay with either because each of them already had a brother and a sister. That was easy.
Older sister Audrey, on the other hand, wanted a sister. Audrey was 2 and 1/2 at the time and very happy with her doting brothers, but a baby sister would be nice. Audrey was thinking pink and only wanted pink things for the new baby. She picked out tea sets with lovely pink flowers adorning the little cups and saucers and tea pot. She picked out dolls with pink blankets and pink bibs and pink everything. And further, Audrey was not only convinced that the new baby was a girl, but that this new baby sister would be playing with dolls and serving tea from day one. Okay. This wasn't going to be so easy after all.
I searched for a little picture book to help me explain to Audrey all about the new baby, hoping, especially, to find something about the brother/sister thing. What I found was a delightful Berenstain Bears' book entitled New Baby. The illustrations were a colorful, expressive Stan and Jan Berenstain standard. The story itself was a delightful, expressive story of Mama, Papa, and Small Bear living in their fine tree house, gathering honey and vegetables, loving the out-of-doors, and Small Bear snuggling in his own little room in his own little bed...a bed that soon was too small for Small Bear. Ah ha!
The book beautifully detailed Papa making a new bed, a much bigger bed, and the arrival of a new baby sister who needed the old, smaller bed. I thought New Baby would be perfect; Audrey would learn that the new baby would not be quite ready to play, and that the new baby may be a brother (in the book, Small Bear ended up with a sister).
Audrey loved the book. We read it each night for weeks and weeks and weeks. New Baby gave us lots to explore in the world of new babies, including the brother/sister surprise. In fact, that book became one of my favorite books of all time. The lovely simplicity of its message and the sweet illustrations drew me in, time after time.
When Jane Hillary arrived, Keith, Adam, and Audrey were all delighted beyond words...especially Audrey. We continued to read New Baby well after Jane came home to all of her pinkness and tea sets and dolls. And one day I found myself tucking that little picture book away...just in case I ever needed it again.
I wouldn't need it. Jane would always be our baby. But I still have that book -- that's how much I loved it and still love it. It is tattered and wrinkled. It has been read to many, many dolls in its journey with my children. It has check marks on its pages, where I'm sure Audrey and Jane found it necessary to emphasize something to one or two of those dolls. And Jane even wrote her name in her first attempts at cursive penmanship on the inside cover. And down on the right bottom corner, where it says "Thank you..." Jane added "Your welcome."
New Baby is a symbol of my motherhood. It found a way for me to explain something so big, so miraculous, and so life-changing to my little girl and her big brothers. I still hold onto those delightful memories. Isn't it a marvel how a little picture book can do this?
In keeping with Christine's Four Favorites idea, in addition to Stan and Jan Berenstain New Baby (#1), here are three additional titles I recommend for opening dialogue and conversation with older siblings about bringing home a new baby:
2. The New Baby. Mercer Mayer's picture book gives older siblings an idea of what to expect when the new baby arrives home (i.e., babies don't do much!). The New Baby is recommended for children 4-8, but much younger children will enjoy the illustrations, the message, and the fun. My daughter Audrey (now a mom of four little boys) read The New Baby with much success to her enthusiastic brood of boys as each new one came along.
3. I'm A Big Sister & I'm A Big Brother. Author Joanna Cole's cheerfully illustrated I'm a Big Sister and I'm A Big Brother stress the importance of an older child's role in the family, along with the addition of a new baby. The message of new and different responsibilities is important for the older sibling, and Cole's books explain this in a perspective that allows the older sibling the special grown-up excitement of being the BIG sibling. These books are recommended for children 4-8, but a very good friend of mine gave one to her 10-year granddaughter (who was "expecting" a baby brother), and her granddaughter now loves reading the book to the new baby. Love it.
Also, Joanna Cole's book for older siblings The New Baby at Your House is a highly recommended book of full-color photographs, offering both possible feelings and emotions of the older sibling and a photographic balance of ethnic backgrounds. The New Baby at Your House brings important focus to the older sibling in an honest, open way as the content narrows, and even closes, the sibling gap between loving the new baby and resenting the new baby. I recommended this book for children 6-10, but many families find children as young as 3 respond to the photographs and text. Well done.
4. Just Like A Baby Rebecca Bond's Just Like a Baby is a must-have book for any family expecting a new baby. First, the author studied locally (for us New Englanders!) at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Second, Just Like a Baby is a delightful generational journey that captures the extended-family essence of bringing a new baby home. The lovely story revolves around the building of a cradle in which each member of the family participates...mother, father, brother, grandfather, grandmother. The illustrations are as rich and endearing as the story itself. I've read this book dozens of times, and each time I do, I feel like dancing. I feel like singing. I feel like welcoming a new baby into our lives...!
Just as a new baby brings new joys, a new baby may also bring lots of questions. Look to these four authors for all the answers you need!
Perhaps it's not an accident but the week Sharon sent me this post, Laurel brought home New Baby from her school library and we have read it many, many times since. I can't wait to check out these other wonderful titles! If you're not yet reading Mom Generations, you'll find all sorts of goodness related to being a mom, grandmother, and "dog mom." You can also follow Mom Generations and Sharon Couto on Twitter at @momgenerations and @sharoncouto.