Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, Ill. by Sophie Blackall

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, Ill. by Sophie Blackall


Publishing: Viking, New York, 2010.

Description: Rubina is excited about her invitation to one of her classmates’ birthday parties. Her mother tells her that she must take her little sister, Sana, or she cannot go. Rubina does as she is told, but the party does not go so well, and Sana even steals one of the treats from Rubina’s treat bag. It is a long time before Rubina is invited to another birthday party. Sana grows older, however, and when she is invited to a party must take their littlest sister, Maryam. However, something makes Rubina convince their mother not to make Sana take Maryam, even though it would be a form of karma or revenge. As a thank-you, Sana brings back a green lollipop similar to the red one she stole from Rubina long ago. The two sisters reconcile.

Programming: This has great themes about loving your siblings, but also about forgiving your enemies and doing the right thing, even when you want to get revenge. Have students discuss what kind of positive consequences probably came from Rubina’s selflessness.

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton, Ill. by Tony Persiani

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton, Ill. by Tony Persiani

Publishing: Charlesbridge, Watertown; MA, 2009

Awards: 2010 Notable Children’s Book

Description: Barton uses kid-friendly language and a progression of color to tell the story of Bob and Joe Switzer, the brothers that perfected day-goo paint and colors. At the end he explains how day

Programming: Barton’s explanations at the end deal with light, which would tie perfectly into a science lesson about light and light reflecting. Classes might experiment with prisms and define the difference between reflection and refraction.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Publishing: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, New York, 1987

Description: Steptoe notes on the very first page that this tale was inspired by a folktale originally collected and published in 1895. The tale tells the story of two sisters, Manyara and Nyasha. Both are physically beautiful, but one is kind while the other is cruel. One day the king sends for both of the girls to choose one as his wife, and Mufaro is excited to send them. Manyara, hoping to reach the king first, leaves in the middle of the night. On her journey in the forest she encounters a hungry child and an old, wise, woman, and a poor man all of whom she scorns and ignores. Nyasha, Mufaro, and the wedding party they have gathered follow the next morning. Nyasha is kind to each of the people Manyara met in the forest. When she reaches the city she finds her sister screaming a sobbing about encountering a five-headed snake in the palace. Nyasha enters, however, and sees only the small snake from her garden. The snake reveals to her that he is the king, and that he was also the people in the forest. Nyasha’s kindness has pleased him and he takes her as his wife.

Programming: This lesson plan idea from Scholastic says it better than I ever could:

They suggest focusing on the narrative as a folktale and discussing characteristics of that genre. There is also a tie-in to biology through the snake and the art project is to design a wedding invitation, which I think is a practical skill in understanding what information has to be there.

Take Two! A Celebration of Twins by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, Ill. by Sophie Blackall

Take Two! A Celebration of Twins by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, Ill. by Sophie Blackall


Publishing: Candlewick, Somerville, 2012

Description: A collection of poems all devoted to the phenomena of twins. Poems vary in length and style, illustrations are mostly integrated with the text instead of being full-page or two-page spreads. Facts about twins are placed at the bottom of many of the pages.

Programming: If page 36 is to be believed, twins are more common now than they were just 40 years ago. It is likely that there will be several sets of twins in the community, possibly even one or two sets in the class or group at hand. If this is the case, and the students are comfortable with it (maybe even okay it with the parents) you might ask the twins to come up and talk about whether they are identical or fraternal twins, who was born first, etc. An older set of twins in the community (high schoolers or adults) might be able to speak more to the subject. Before reading, I would also ask students about what kinds of things they do with their siblings or their best friends. I would ask them what they knew about twins, and what they think is different about being a twin than being a friend or a brother/sister.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

Publishing: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994

Description: Patricia and her brother, Richard, are always competing. It seems like Richard wins at everything, and can always brag that he is four years older and will always win at that too. When Patricia sees a falling star she wishes that she could do something better than her brother. The next day at the fair she does: she rides the merry-go-round longer than Richard. Only, when she gets off she immediately passes out and Richard is the one who carries her home and fetches the doctor. Patricia realizes that she is lucky to have a brother like Richard after all.

Programming: This book is very relatable for students who have siblings. They might talk or write about a time when they got into a fight with either a sibling or a friend.

Polacco lists some suggestions for discussion questions and activities on her own site. My favorite includes having each student make a list of things they love about their sibling. (Only children could talk about friends or other relatives)