Big Red Lollipop

Big Red Lollipop

4.0 3
by Rukhsana Khan, Sophie Blackall

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Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can't convince Ami that you just don't bring your younger sister to your friend's party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina's prized party favor, a


Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can't convince Ami that you just don't bring your younger sister to your friend's party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina's prized party favor, a red lollipop. What's a fed-up big sister to do?

Rukhsana Khan's clever story and Sophie Blackall's irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book.

Editorial Reviews

Lawrence Downes
Big Red Lollipop is a delight, a simple story with considerable depth. Young readers will recognize some universal truths: the brattiness of young siblings, the great unfairness that birth order wreaks on the world. They will also see truthfully rendered social awkwardness, and learn something of the uneasy spot in which young children of immigrants often find themselves, obliged to obey their parents while also instructing them in the mysterious ways of their adopted land. Khan has an ideal collaborator in ­Sophie Blackall, whose Chinese ink-and-watercolor drawings convey exquisite detail and precise emotion.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Khan (Silly Chicken) delivers another astute and moving story, ostensibly dealing with sibling rivalry, but actually about hard-won lessons emerging from clashes of identity and assimilation. When Rubina receives her first invitation to a birthday party, her mother, who readers are left to infer is an immigrant, is first perplexed (“What's a birthday party?... Why do they do that?”), then insistent that Rubina take her annoying younger sister along, even though Rubina pleads, “They don't do that here!” The result, in Khan's characteristically direct prose, is devastating: “I don't get any invitations for a really long time,” says Rubina, and Blackall's (Wombat Walkabout) subtly textured ink portrait shows every nuance of the girl's sense of social failure. But Khan's remarkable gift for balancing emotional honesty and empathy, and her keen understanding of family dynamics, keeps defeatism from swamping the book. Rubina turns her experience into wisdom and gains her mother's respect as a mediator between cultures. It's an ending worthy of a novella, and once again signals that Khan is one of the most original voices working in picture books today. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Dynamic visual design distinguishes this tale of sibling conflict in an immigrant family. Running home from school, Rubina tells Ami (mom) the thrilling news of a birthday-party invitation. This concept's new to Ami, but the real problem is younger sister Sana, who demands to attend as well. Ami agrees. Pouting all the way, Rubina takes Sana, who not only disrupts the games but eats both her own and Rubina's big red lollipop party favor. Blackall's peppy watercolor-and-pencil illustrations hum with vibrancy and a wonderful sense of children in constant motion. Every page shows fresh composition and scale. When the justifiably resentful Rubina chases Sana around the house, the pair of wee figures shows up eight times on that spread, racing from spot to spot like Hilary Knight's Eloise. Then Sana receives an invitation herself and Ami almost makes her take even-younger sister Maryam along-but Rubina's intervention prevents that, and Sana brings Rubina a big green lollipop in gratitude. They're friends now, though it's unknown whether the invitations that Rubina stopped receiving due to Sana's antics ever recommence. Charming and spirited. (Picture book. 3-5)
An honest, even moving, commentary on sisterly relationships.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our young narrator is thrilled to be invited to her first birthday party. She must explain to her mother Ami, who appears be an immigrant from her clothing and head covering, what a birthday party is. Her little sister Sana immediately screams and demands to go. To her horror, her mother says Rubina must ask to bring her or she cannot go. Sana's behavior almost spoils the party for her. When they leave, Sana soon eats up the big red lollipop in the goodie bag, while Rubina saves hers, dreaming all night about how good it will taste. But in the morning, she finds that Sana has left her only a tiny triangle. She is furious but Ami insists she must share. Also, she is not invited to any more parties since she has to bring Sana along. When Sana is invited to a party, their little sister Maryam screams to go too. Overcoming her own feelings, Rubina persuades Ami to let Sana go alone. Her reward is a big green lollipop from the party and a sister who has become a friend. With minimal scenery, the spotlight is on the characters, their slightly caricatured round faces, dark eyes, and straight dark hair, exaggerated facial expressions and body gestures. Action goes around, across, and off the pages. This matter-of-fact treatment of a single parent immigrant family adds a humorous look at serious sibling rivalry. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—This sibling-rivalry story compares well with Kevin Henkes's Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick (HarperCollins, 2001). When Rubina comes home with a birthday-party invitation, her mother asks why people celebrate birthdays, as her culture does not, and insists that Rubina take her little sister along despite the older child's insistence that "they don't do that here." Sana is a brat par excellence at the party and steals Rubina's candy. It's a long time before Rubina is invited to another one. Expert pacing takes readers to the day when Sana is invited to her first party. Whereas the embarrassing scenario could be repeated with the girls' younger sister, Rubina convinces her mother to reconsider, and Sana is allowed to go solo. The beauty of the muted tones and spareness of the illustrations allow readers to feel the small conflicts in the text. The stylistic scattering of East Indian motifs from bedspread designs to clothing communicate the cultural richness of the family's home life while the aerial views, especially the rooms through which the siblings chase each other, are priceless. The book is a thoughtful springboard for discussion of different birthday traditions and gorgeous to the eye.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
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Penguin Group
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File size:
15 MB
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Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Rukhsana Khan lives in Toronto, Canada.

Sophie Blackall lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Big Red Lollipop 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Humbee More than 1 year ago
There's no greater pleasure for a grammie to hear than that her little grandgirl loved the new book chosen for her. Especially when Grammie is so careful to build Hadley's young library with her. If Hadley says it's a very good book and she wants to hear it read over and over to her, then it gets high marks indeed! This one is a "Grammie Alert" book. We're happy with this inclusive cultural theme, beautiful illustrations and charming characters. Highly recommended for 4-7 yr. olds. Grammie & Hadley give it 5 pink stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a preschool teacher of a diverse group of children. It is really hard to find a children's book that represents Arab people without mentioning or referring to religion - we are unable to talk about religion, etc at school. This book also teaches a great lesson and ALL of my students clamor for a turn to look at this book, regardless of their ethnicity or background.