The best books about bothersome brothers and sisters

Kathryn Siebel Author Of The Trouble with Twins
By Kathryn Siebel

Who am I?

I grew up in suburban Chicago as the middle of five children. My siblings were and are at the center of my world. Now I work with school-age children, and my fascination with the love/annoyance these relationships engender continues. I loved Little Women as a child, and stories of siblings, especially sisters, still tug at my heart. It’s no wonder my first middle-grade novel is just such a tale.


I wrote...

The Trouble with Twins

By Kathryn Siebel,

Book cover of The Trouble with Twins

What is my book about?

Kate DiCamillo meets Lemony Snicket in this darkly comic novel about two sisters who learn they are each others' most important friend! Imagine two twin sisters, Arabella and Henrietta--nearly identical yet with nothing in common. They're the best of friends . . . until one day they aren't. Plain and quiet Henrietta has a secret plan to settle the score, and she does something outrageous and she can't take it back.

When the deed is discovered, Henrietta is sent to live with her eccentric great-aunt! Suddenly life with pretty, popular Arabella doesn't seem so awful. And, though she's been grievously wronged, Arabella longs for her sister, too. So she hatches a plan of her own and embarks on an unexpected journey to reunite with her other half.

The Books I Picked & Why

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As Brave as You

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of As Brave as You

Why this book?

Two African American brothers spend their summer in rural Virginia while their parents navigate a rough patch in their marriage. Genie, 11, and Ernie, 13, get to know their blind grandfather who has a special room filled with plants and songbirds. I identified with Genie, a worrier who likes to pose questions in his notebook. As the two brothers respond differently to their grandfather’s announcement that a brave man learns to shoot a gun at 14, Reynolds is also asking readers to consider what it means to be brave and how we should define family. I loved the themes and vivid setting of the book. As someone who visited a grandparent in a small, rural town each summer, I identified with the boys’ sense that they have travelled not just a state but a whole world away from home.


Rules

By Cynthia Lord,

Book cover of Rules

Why this book?

It’s rare for a writer to be able to tackle a serious subject in a way that makes you laugh. Yet, that’s just what Cynthia Lord does in Rules, the story of Catherine and her eight-year-old brother, David, who has autism. Catherine devises rules for David to help family life go more smoothly. These include “Don’t sand in front of the TV when other people are watching it” and “A boy takes off his shirt to swim but not his shorts.” I love the honesty of this book, which shares Catherine’s frustrations while also demonstrating her love for David and questioning what it means to be “normal.” I read this book years ago with a group of other teachers, and it helped us all gain insight into kids on the autism spectrum.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

By e. l. konigsburg,

Book cover of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Why this book?

This book has one of the greatest settings in all of middle-grade fiction as far as I’m concerned: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Brother and sister Claudia and Jamie Kincaid run away and hide in the museum where they discover a sculpture of a marble angel that may have been the work of Michelangelo. The sculpture has been donated by the eccentric Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The duo sets out to learn if the statue is truly a Michelangelo and, if so, why Mrs. Frankweiler gave it to the museum for free. I confess that part of my affection for the book is based on a diorama I built for school long ago. Still, if you’ve somehow missed this classic, I think you’re missing out.


Sisters

By Raina Telgemeier,

Book cover of Sisters: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

What could illustrate sibling tensions better than a book set in a car during a road trip? Raina always wanted a baby sister—until Amara arrived. Now, as she embarks on a weeks-long car trip she remembers what a difficult baby and toddler Amara was, and the ongoing frustration of sharing her parents’ attention Before the graphic memoir is done, the two sisters bond. This is the second in the Smile series, but you can jump in here if you like without getting confused. The art is great, and the story is heart-warming without being sticky-sweet. It brought back memories of road trips with my sisters, sharing snacks, and fighting for space in the back of the station wagon.


Kira-Kira

By Cynthia Kadohata,

Book cover of Kira-Kira

Why this book?

This beautiful, bittersweet novel tells the story of Katie; her sister, Lynn; and their brother, Sammy. Growing up in 1950s Georgia, in one of the few Japanese families in their town, the kids stand out and must struggle against prejudice, economic hardship, and Lynn’s eventual illness. What could be a bleak story is redeemed by Katie’s dry humor and the author’s portrayal of the deep bond between the children and within the family and the Japanese community. Lynn teaches Katie that however difficult life becomes, one must look for Kira-Kira—the things that glitter like the stars above. This book doesn’t flinch from hard topics: the labor conditions in the poultry industry, Lynn’s illness, racial prejudice. As a writer, I admire Kadohata’s willingness to tackle these issues and her faith that kids will learn from having such stories as part of their reading lives. 


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