Something is wrong.
Suddenly my big sister is acting weird.
Suddenly she wants privacy.
Ciraolo’s ingenious book Whatever Happened to my Big Sister was recommended to me by Jane for this month’s Book Club theme.
As a big sister myself this book struck so many chords with me. It made me chuckle and it made me make that musing sound “mmmmmhm” that I do when I see an opposite perspective and completely agree.
Growing up does seem to happen in leaps and bounds and one day Ciraolo’s young protagonist finds that her big sister is simply not her big sister any more–the only explanation is that she’s been replaced by an imposter. In her hilarious turn of phrase style, little sister notes that though she is very observant “the moment of the switch must have passed me by.”
You’ll notice that I’m saying “little sister” and “big sister” and that’s because no actual names are given for the girls–and I kind of really liked this. In conjunction with Ciraolo’s expressive illustrations in varying grades of brown and grey with splashes of colour it makes the reader feel like they are in memories, their own or the protagonists, and it really doesn’t matter which. Indeed, the portrayal is simply honest and universal. Ciraolo tells a very keenly observed and familiar narrative of a relationship that is ever-evolving, and of how unforgiving young people can be. The older sister just casually tosses aside the younger; and this is a situation that, me and just about every reader can relate to because readers understand that big sister is simply growing up and that little sister just doesn’t get it, and may not yet be ready for it.
At 40 pages, Ciraolo was given quite a bit of length for a picturebook to tell the story of siblings growing up, but it hits on just the right notes and does manage to link with the varying ages that this text will appeal to.
Which brings me to my last point. I found it absolutely refreshing that this book tackled the complex issues of maturity and change in, not only siblings, but sisters and that it did it with actual humans! Too often do we see challenging emotions and subjects abdicated to the responsibility of cute fluffy bunnies or kitties. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cat person, but does a cat go through the same emotional and physical struggles of a young girl in human society?
No a cat does not.
Thank you Simona Ciraolo and Flying Eye Books for recognizing that girls are not the same as cats. Thank you for a picturebook that so perfectly and honestly realizes the growing pains of sisterhood. And thank you for recognizing how cruel, and yet tender, the heart of a young girl truly is.
Highly recommended (just not for cats).