Thursday, October 13, 2011

Situation: Bratty Sister

I’ve just finished reading Rukhsana Khan’s Big Red Lollipop (823 K527B PIC BK) and really enjoyed it. It’s a totally relatable story about an older sister (me) coping with the demands of a younger sister (my sister). Welcome to my childhood world.

Rubina receives an invitation to a birthday party from a girl at school. Her very first one! She’s so excited, rushing home to ask permission to go. Her mother doesn’t really understand what a birthday party is all about (the family is from Pakistan and it’s not a custom they follow) and sets the condition that she must take her younger sister. (The younger sister, Sana, kicks up quite the fuss about wanting to go, screaming “I wanna go now!”).

Rubina knows this isn’t going to go well and, sure enough, Sana proves to be a challenge at the party, having to win the party games and crying when she falls during musical chairs. Sana gobbles all her candy from her goodie bag and goes so far as eating Rubina’s red lollipop, too. (Rubina had saved hers and was eagerly anticipating eating it the next day.) Not good. Ami (the mom) brings home the lesson of ‘sharing’ which only aggravates Rubina more.

But a life lesson is just around the corner for Sana, too. She receives a birthday invitation from a school mate and then must deal with the youngest sister, Maryam demanding to go along, too. Ami’s condition stands – Sana gets to go only if she brings Maryam.

This where Rubina shines. She stands up for Sana and without a fuss convinces Ami to let Sana go alone. In appreciation, Sana gives Rubina the lollipop she gets at the party.

Sounds like the story might be a bit didactic but it isn’t. The illustrations are beautifully composed, with emotions conveyed with facial expressions and body language. The sense of frustration and lack of fairness is palpable from Rubina’s point of view. I love the illustration showing the ‘chase’ scene when Rubina seeks retribution after Sana eats her lollipop.

Visit Rukhsana Khan’s website for a teacher’s guide for this book and many of her others.


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