Sibling relationships can be tricky. The wonder and comfort of a shared history is powerful…and yet…no one can push our buttons or get our blood boiling like a sibling. I witness the magic and the mayhem on a daily basis with my four kids. It only takes a moment to go from delighted giggles as they line up their toys to play store, to horrified shrieks as the “customer” refuses to pay the 35 cents required to purchase the stuffed pony…only seconds for the “shop owner” to take chase and wrestle the pony-lifting offender to the ground. And on bad days, for this mama, the back-and-forth bickering is more than even an afternoon Venti-Caramel-Iced-Coffee-with-Milk can fix. But on good days, Sorrys can be spoken, hugs can be shared, and in the same span of moments it took to break down, all is well again. Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday, OTTO GROWS DOWN, takes on the highs and lows of sibling relationships in bold fashion. Michael Sussman takes that “How I wish I was an only child” feeling and actually SAYS IT OUT LOUD. (The horror!) With humor and heart, Sussman and illustrator Scott Magoon come together to tell a story that children and adults alike can relate to as they navigate the both valuable and vexing in sibling relationships.
OTTO GROWS DOWN
- Written By: Michael Sussman
- Illustrated By: Scott Magoon
- Published By: Sterling, February 2009
- Suitable For: Ages 4-7
- Topics/Themes: Siblings, Family, Wishes, Regret
- Opening: “One week before Otto’s sixth birthday, his sister Anna spoiled everything by being born.”
- Synopsis: (from jacketflap) “When six-year-old Otto makes a birthday wish that his baby sister had never been born, he gets much more than he bargained for. Suddenly, time starts moving backward. Good-bye, toy-stealing baby sister! But soon, good-bye Otto, as he gets younger and younger and younger. Will Otto disappear too? Find out in this wild tale of sibling rivalry and wishes gone out of control.”
- Resources: This book is sure to produce organic conversations with your kids about dealing with siblings. Questions I asked my younger kids after reading this book included, “Is it sometimes hard to have a brother/sister?” “What feels hard about it?” “What was hard for Otto?” “How did Otto feel when his sister disappeared? At the beginning? At the end?” “What are some things you would miss if your brother/sister weren’t in your life?” The conversation is sure to flow from there. I also found this really amazing worksheet/lesson plan for older kids to imagine a “what if” type situation and write about it. It covers the topic in two parts, so here you go: Part I, and Part II.
- Why I Like this Book: I adore this book. Wait, let me say that again. I ADORE THIS BOOK! There, that’s better. So I was heartbroken to hear that it is going out of print. (sob!) This picture book has a wow factor that not all picture books do. The pairing of Scott Magoon’s comic illustrations with Michael Sussman’s smart text is genius. It addresses a universal theme in such a clever, funny, and heart-warming way. CLEVER (ok, kind of brilliant, really) because it manages to make time-travel work within the constraints of a picture book text. FUNNY because there are certain things that happen once time begins to move backward (sliding up the slide! baths that you take when you’re clean and they make you dirty!) that make adults and children alike giggle out loud. And HEART-WARMING because it addresses feelings that most kids can relate to…the wish that they were an only child…and brings about the realization that just maybe the good things outweigh the bad when it comes to siblings. So please, please leave here now and go buy one of the last remaining copies. You won’t regret it.
AFTER you go snatch up OTTO GROWS DOWN, please head on over and check out the rest of the selections today on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!