At his big brother's birthday party last year, Robbie made a mess of things. He flubbed up the party games, sang the wrong words to "Happy Birthday", and tried to unwrap all his brother's presents. This year, big brother Christopher says he doesn't want Robbie around and wishes he had a puppy instead of a brother. So, Robbie arrives at this year's party, not as a brother, but as a puppy. And still he creates mayhem. The way the two boys work it out is affectionately expressed in slapstick by Mathers's colorful crayon-like drawings of stick-figure characters.
Jonell and Mathers hit the bull's-eye with this look at sibling rivalry, which brings together the two lead characters from their earlier books. Christopher, the magically empowered toddler of Mommy Go Away!, now six (judging by the candles on his cake), is older brother to redheaded Robbie, who fashioned make-believe reptiles from his family's belongings in I Need a Snake. In this latest installment, it's Christopher's birthday, leaving the younger sibling to play second banana. After cruelly disabusing Robbie of the idea that it's his birthday, too, Christopher lowers another boom: the younger boy can't come to the party. "You came last year," Christopher says, "and you wrecked everything." Rejected as a brother, Robbie assumes the role of compliant puppy instead--with such gusto (including howling during the singing of "Happy Birthday") that Christopher reaches a grudging appreciation of his sibling's devotion. The boys' parents are seen but not heard (they are silent partners in the party preparations); Robbie and Christopher forge the resolution themselves, and it feels both satisfying and authentic. Once again, Mathers's brightly crayoned, stick-figure drawings exhibit wit and poignancy: Robbie's tiny eyes under furrowed brow or topping off a grin express the pains and joys of siblinghood. Jonell's story, told mostly through dialogue, is as credible as if she were eavesdropping on two primary- school-age brothers. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Christopher is having a birthday. His mother makes a cake. His father blows up balloons. Trouble is, younger brother Robbie thinks he is a welcome guest. Christopher thinks Robbie will spoil the day and decides he would rather have a puppy than a brother. Pretending to be a puppy, Robbie joins the party. He greets Christopher's friends on all fours. He chews a shoelace because he does not know how to play party games. He howls along to "Happy Birthday." When offered a doggie treat, he jumps onto the table and licks the birthday cake, getting chocolate frosting all over his face. He wags his tail at a guest, who tells Christopher he is lucky to have a puppy. But Chrstopher decides younger siblings are all right after all. "Puppies are nothing but trouble," he tells his friend.
Children's Literature - Julie Steinberg
It is hard to celebrate a birthday when it is not yours. Robbie has a hard time at his brother Christopher's party. Last year Robbie wrecked the party, so he is only allowed to come as a puppy. Robbie is an even worse guest in canine guise but brotherly love triumphs at the end. The bright stick-figure illustrations do a great job of showing feelings and silly situations.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
PreS-Gr 2-Every older sibling will understand why Christopher doesn't want his little brother at his birthday party-last year Robbie wrecked everything. Christopher says he would rather have a puppy than a brother. "Would you let a puppy come to your party?" Robbie inquires. The birthday boy says he would if he were to obey all of his commands. So Robbie comes to the party as an obedient (well, semi-obedient) pet, and his tricks, both mischievous and comical, make the party guests all wish they had a dog, too. The naive, childlike stick figures in bright colors are cheerful and expressive. Robbie's barking, shoelace chewing, howling during the birthday song, and jumping on the table to lick the frosting are as innocently exuberant as the antics of any preschooler with an active imagination. Even when Christopher is being his most negative and big-brotherish, the party balloons escaping right out of the illustration borders seem so festive that readers can never take his disapproval seriously. There's always demand for books about learning to appreciate siblings, and this bit of light absurdity will strike the right note with children who are embarrassed by small and importunate brothers and sisters who don't know how to behave.-Marian Drabkin, Richmond Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Jonell and Mathers once again go straight to the heart of the child's experience in this story of sibling dynamics...Siblings everywhere will dig right in.
The Horn Book Magazine
From Jonell and Mathers (I Need a Snake, 1998, etc.), an immensely appealing story of brotherly dynamics, and the sparks they throw off. Once again, the artwork is a major player, showing Christopher, the older brother (whose birthday it is), with stick arms and legs, and an egg-shaped head; and Robbie, the younger boy (whose birthday it isn't), with similar arms and legs and a round head topped with an orange pat of hair. Christopher doesn't want Robbie at his party; Robbie retaliates by saying that perhaps he won't be Christopher's brother anymore. Christopher's declaration that he'd rather have a puppy produces Robbie's offer to be that puppy. But when too much doggy behavior earns a disparaging comment from one of Christopher's friends, the older brother rescues the younger. It's all familiar but lovely in this formatboiled down to the essentials and gleeful in its simplicity. (Picture book. 4-8) .