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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Emma Dilemma, written by Kirstine O'Connell George and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion, Thomas Allen & Son, 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

Emma's hand is
just the right size
to fit
inside mine.

Emma's hand is


I think that older sisters need to remember those little moments when the little sister is endearing. I don't think that time comes around too often. Of course, I have no experience to base these feelings on at all; I have a younger brother. But, my neighborhood friends had three girls in the family and I could not believe the chaos they managed to stir up on a daily basis. They took each other's clothes, screamed at each other constantly, spied on the oldest's romances, teased the youngest unmercifully. Today, they are best friends.

Jessica and Emma are sisters, and Jessica's observations of that relationship are so strong and clear in the perceptive poetry of Kristine O'Connell George. Emma can, at once, be funny and sweet while also being a bother and a brat. How does that happen? Jessica tries to be a good big sister. Can Emma not do the same? She is a dilemma!

"Emma copies
everything I do,
and sometimes
I don't do something
I might do
or really
want to do
I know
she is
every single thing I do."

Kristine O'Connell George never disappoints. She is perceptive and contemplative, and creates two characters who will resonate with anyone who has a sibling, but especially those who have a bright and charming, irascible and irritating little sister. No matter what Emma does to annoy Jessica...sneaking into her bedroom, telling wearying jokes or doing homework alongside her...there is love. It is evident in the storytelling, the pie-sharing, the gift buying and the concern when Emma hurts herself. The feelings run the gamut from one end of the scale to the other when Jessica is dealing with Emma Dilemma.

"Emma wants me to
be the first one
to sign her cast.
I print

I love you Emma

with the only marker I have left
that Emma hasn't ruined. "

If you have a sibling, you have probably been there, and done that! If you want to evoke some of those old memories, get this book and share it with your kids. Then, you will have childhood stories to tell them.

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