Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems

Overview

Emma is Jess's little sister . . . and her dilemma. How can one small girl be sweet, funny, imaginative, playful, and affectionate as well as a clinging vine, brat, tattletale, and nuisance–all at the same time? Why is Jess supposed to be a good big sister while Emma doesn't have to be a good little sister? The highlights and low points of this sibling relationship are insightfully evoked in short and simple poems, some funny, some touching, and all resonant with emotional truth. Every child with a younger ...

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Overview

Emma is Jess's little sister . . . and her dilemma. How can one small girl be sweet, funny, imaginative, playful, and affectionate as well as a clinging vine, brat, tattletale, and nuisance–all at the same time? Why is Jess supposed to be a good big sister while Emma doesn't have to be a good little sister? The highlights and low points of this sibling relationship are insightfully evoked in short and simple poems, some funny, some touching, and all resonant with emotional truth. Every child with a younger sibling will recognize Jess's dilemma and the combination of ambivalence and deep loyalty that is built into the sibling relationship. Nancy Carpenter's graceful illustrations perceptively complement Kristine O'Connell George's agile poems.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A likable fourth-grader shares her frustrations about her preschool-age sister, Emma, in candid narrative poems. Emma copies everything Jessica does, embarrasses her at her soccer game by wearing a boa and high heels ("I pretend I've never seen/ that kid ever before/ in my whole entire life"), and "decorates" her room with yarn. There are tender moments, genuinely conveyed in Carpenter's expressive pen-and-ink illustrations: "Emma cheats/ at board games/ and card games/ and still loses." The vignettes form such a vivid portrait of Emma and Jessica that readers may feel as if they personally know them—and a tense turn of events will have readers holding their breath until the reassuring conclusion. Ages 6–9. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"The vignettes form such a vivid portrait of Emma and Jessica that readers may feel as if they personally know them—and a tense turn of events will have readers holding their breath." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A potent combination of accessibility and understanding, this will work well as a readalone or a readaloud, offering sympathy to those who are in the older-sib position and perspective to those who aren’t."—Bulletin, starred review

"Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life while the verses build to a climactic situation that brings these youngsters together in a touching way."—School Library Journal, starred review

"This touching portrayal captures well the many mutual acts of kindness and tolerance inherent in healthy sibling relation."—Kirkus

"The poems and art tell an absorbing story—complete with a few tense moments and a warm, believable conclusion—widening the audience and making this book more than just an opportunity for big sisters to nod their heads in total recognition."—The Horn Book

"Older siblings everywhere will recognize the big-sister’s view of family fury and fun."—Booklist

Children's Literature - Maggie Chase
In a series of short, interconnected poems that tell a larger story, we learn of big sister Jessica's frustration with the antics and intrusions of her little sister Emma. Emma gets into Jessica's things and sometimes breaks them, dotes on Jessica in suffocating ways, and upstages Jessica in a manner that proves embarrassing or annoying. The author of the book uses line breaks in the poems for effective emphasis and ends several poems with cleverly chosen words that give just the right twist. The illustrations give us a glimpse into Jessica's conflicted emotions as she vacillates between affection and exasperation. This book will be a welcome addition to a study of family relationships and sibling issues, and it may even inspire children to write poems about their own brothers and sisters. It would work well alongside two similar classics, Blume's The Pain and the Great One (1984) and Kellogg's Much Bigger than Martin (1976). All of these would help children learn about point of view. Reviewer: Maggie Chase
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—Jessica shares the struggles of being the big sister in this collection of 34 poignant poems. The fourth grader's three-year-old sister, Emma, vacillates between being sweet and lovable and being Jessica's biggest problem. She wants to be a good sibling, but little sisters can try one's patience. In one poem, Jessica generously allows Emma extra space to draw, but in the entry on the facing page she only grants Emma a "teeny twig" in her family tree. Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life while the verses build to a climactic situation that brings these youngsters together in a touching way.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
George and Carpenter winningly collaborate to sketch the dimensions of sisterhood. Told from elder sister Jessica's perspective, this series of short free-verse poems and pastel-shaded ink-and-digital illustrations movingly depict the challenges and comforts of Jessica's "dilemma," namely the actions of her preschool-aged sister, Emma, only a few years her junior. Emma is at times irascible, adulatory, inappropriate, silly, fun-loving and generous. And, irritated as she sometimes gets when Emma raids her bedroom or mimics her every word, Jessica proves herself ever the model big sister, reading to Emma, translating her baby talk for their parents, allowing her refuge when nighttime "monsters" threaten, teaching her essential skills like how to shoot paper off a straw and worrying terribly when Emma falls and breaks an arm. Jessica even makes space for Emma while doing homework—"I move over, give her plenty of elbow room, / because the pictures inside Emma's head are bigger than the kitchen table"—knowing that Emma loves her because she's "the only one / who can remember / the names of all her / rocks." This touching portrayal captures well the many mutual acts of kindness and tolerance inherent in healthy sibling relations.(Picture book/poetry. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618428427
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 47
  • Sales rank: 622,057
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristine O'Connell George, one of the principal voices in contemporary children's poetry, has received the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Promising Poet Award. She lives with her family in Agoura, California.

Nancy Carpenter, illustrator of many successful picture books, lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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