Tales from the Sibling Files

The first picture book review by our new library assistant, Meaghan!

The new small person Adjusting to a new sibling can be an agonizing time in a young child’s life. Sometimes the transition is smoother than parents anticipate, and sometimes the real lion roars once the tiny, non-moving baby develops into a large, toy-stealing toddler. Oh the agony. There it is. Not on time, but it definitely arrived.

While plenty of books abound to help explain the growing bump in mummy’s belly, there are also quite a few wonderful selections to help explain the tension of sibling rivalry for the stage where both siblings begin to understand that they are, in fact, siblings.

One such book that handles the topic with wit and charm is The New Small Person by Lauren Child. What this picture book does is answer the age old question: What do I do when I am no longer the only cute person in the room? Meet Elmore Green. He loves his life and he should. His parents dote on his every need and make him feel secure and loved. And then “the new person” arrives and changes everything. It is explained to Elmore that he cannot get angry at the things his baby brother does because when you are small, you don’t know what is good and what is bad. I myself am guilty of such an explanation. I have told my disgruntled three-year-old son that his younger sister doesn’t know that biting is bad. Not surprisingly, this phrase doesn’t do a thing to comfort an angry pre-schooler, and Child perfectly captures the resentment of an older sibling being told this nugget of wisdom. Eventually, after dealing with all kinds of indignities at the hand of this “new person”, we see an older, wiser sibling relationship begin to unfold. Elmore Green can’t escape the adoring presence of his younger brother, and Elmore begins to see that he doesn’t always want to. One day, Elmer’s younger brother is in awe watching Elmer line toys on the house stairs. Elmer realizes that “It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special.”

The New Small Person spread 1

The New Small Person is a great tool to present how different a baby, a toddler, and preschooler are from one another. Look at how deftly I used a reading of the book to jump-start a conversation with my son: A swaddled infant doesn’t share in your excitement over building the perfect tower, nor the glee that comes after knocking down said tower with the perfect high kick. And a drooling baby certainly couldn’t help you rebuild that tower twenty seven times, just so you could both take turns knocking it down. See? Aren’t you glad your biting sister has grown up a bit? She adds so much to your life….

Further Readings on the Topic:


Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio
French bulldog Gaston lives with a poodle family. Poodle Antoinette lives with a French bulldog family. When these two young pups discover there was a mix-up and try to fit in with their “proper” siblings, hilarity ensues. A quirky read about feeling at home in your family, whoever you are.

Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols
This wonderful follow-up to Maple explores the relationship between the two sisters now that Willow is no longer an infant.

Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
Older brother or younger sister….who is the real troublemaker of this picture book? Keep your eye out for the furry critter mixing it up with these two siblings.

MeaghanBlogMeaghan Choisnet is a library assistant in Youth Services. She has plenty of experience with sibling strife, and a particular incident involving her older brother and a snowy day still has her haunted. He knows what he did. Now she does her best to guide her two young ones through the tumultuous moments of siblinghood, and enjoys guiding young patrons and their parents to their “just-right” books. Email her at mjchoisnet@cityofportsmouth.com

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