I remember when my older sister started reading The Baby-sitters Club and got all snotty about. Who says it’s for older kids and not for me? I thought. And, “You can’t tell me what to do,” might have been my knee jerk response.
It’s tough times being the youngest of two sisters, suspecting that the older version of your genetic match will get to experience everything ahead of you, and that you’re barred from certain activities or insights to which they are privy. The Baby-sitters Club series gave me my first taste of bookish kid sister outrage. Hearing my sis say a book wasn’t for me stung like a surprise slap to the face. Before then, we had shared our books and tastes in literature. But then she got all pre-teen and decided she wanted something for herself. Well! I went out straightaway (hand-in-hand with my parents) and acquired Karen’s Witch the first book in the Baby-sitters Little Sister books (a totally on point, witchy selection Future Me gives the thumbs up).
“Youcan’treaditit’snotforyou!” I blurted at my sister, protecting the title with my scrawny arm, when she happened to glance at the cover.
I’m sure you know that little sisters never win this game. She merely shrugged and said those hateful words: “That’s for babies.”
Regardless of my resentments, I ended up loving the Little Sister series, and though my sister and I are back on even turf in the book world (and, what with my sister being a librarian, I doubt she’d tell me I can’t read something), I still get a kick out of reading books about being the younger sister.
If you too know the struggle, or have a younger sister and wisely seek a more empathetic path, you might enjoy these books, starting from kid sister to older … youngest sister.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall: Okay, let’s get fairness out of the way and look at the little-sister-big-sister conundrum from the other side of the coin. And let’s do it with a delightful picture book! When Rubina is forced to bring her little sister along with her to a birthday party, all of the horror stories older siblings hoard for future burns come true with sister Sana acting a brat. Standing before Rubina is one of those moments where the big sister bond is deeply challenged and put to the test. This story isn’t just about sibling rivalry, by the way; it’s also a story about an immigrant family adjusting to life in a new country.
Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary: I’ll never stop recommending these books–you can’t make me! Like Karen, Ramona was on my side and up against an older sister, Beezus in her case. Beezus had her own world with Henry and Beezus, and you get a sense of the older-younger sister world battles right from the start with Beezus and Ramona. But my favorite in the Ramona series remains Ramona Quimby, Age 8, maybe (just maybe) because at eight years old my sister entered that pre-teen phase and oh how I needed someone to understand me again.
The Sisters Impossible by J.D. Landis: As nature would have it, I was the chubby one while my sister remained thin as a reed no matter how much discarded bacon fat she ate off my plate. I remember that my chubbiness played a big part in the undying love I felt upon first reading this book. In The Sisters Impossible, young, chubby Lily follows her lithe (snooty) older sister, Saundra, to the barre. Upon entering her older sister’s ballet-focused world, Lily discovers not only that Saundra’s “perfect” body and skills don’t equal a perfect life, but that Lily might have it in her to be a star in her own right.
Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan: When you’re a teen shaking your head at your older, adult sister’s life decisions, what else can you do but take matters into your own hands? Sixteen-year-old Josie attempts to do just that when she decides her big sis, Kate, is making a terrible mistake in her choice of a fiancé. Kate and Josie go toe-to-toe as the wedding approaches, and sisterly high jinks are sure to ensue in this YA fiction read. But let’s all assume that, in the end, little sister knows best.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson: It doesn’t matter that they were born conjoined, when you look at Makeda and Abby there’s a definite distinction between who is the oldest and who the youngest. Their relationship isn’t–er–traditional, but they still do exhibit the adult version of classic sibling tension. “Older” sister Abby appears more responsible and in charge; meanwhile, Makeda seems to lack a sense of responsibility and, worse yet, the mojo that runs through Abby’s, and the rest of her divine family’s, blood. The story is told from Makeda’s perspective, and I found a lot in common with her struggles as the odd one out in her family and as a sister.
Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn: For a complex read with a multiplicity of perspectives, find the youngest sister narrative in Thandi, a Black girl struggling with her race and trying to find her place among the wealthy white students at her school. This is the other side of sisterhood, perhaps serving as a reminder of how far an older sister will go to protect and aid her younger sister. It’s not all about petty squabbles!
So Far from God by Ana Castillo: Okay, the youngest sister in this book is resurrected and levitates. How could I not include it on a list for younger sisters, especially since she’s surrounded by not one, but two older sisters? Like Here Comes The Sun, this story is all about the women. Specifically about the magic and strange events surrounding Sofia, her daughters, and their little town of Tome, New Mexico. Expect magical realism and a little sister who’s seen the afterlife.
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