Emma Dilemma by Kristine O'Connell George

Lynn: Ah – sibling relationships!  Ask even the shyest child if their brother/sister ever does anything annoying and stand back.  George and narrator Nancy Carpenter have mined this rich field with their charming Emma Dilemma:  Big Sister Poems (Clarion 2011).  I’m an older sister myself and this book is right on target!  (Notice I said older not bigger – my sister is 5’9″to my 5’0. Talk about annoying!)

Jessica is in fourth grade and little sister Emma has just turned four.  Emma loves dressing up in long white gloves, feathered boa, ruffled petticoat, snooping in Jessica’s room, slipping into Jessica’s room in the middle of the night and trying to do everything Jessica does.  Poems told by Jessica chronicle the trials of big-sisterhood.

I wish grownups would quit saying

I’ll bet you’re

a very good big sister.

Know what?  They never ask Emma

if she is a very good little sister.

One day when her best friend comes over to play, Jessica’s mom promises to keep Emma “out of the way” so Jessica can have her friend all to herself – a scenario that every big sister will instantly understand.  What follows reveals just how good a big sister Jessica really is.

Kristine George must have been a big sister!  Her warm insightful poetry captures those universal small experiences of sisterly childhood.  Sisters, big and small, will see themselves in each snapshot moment and smile in recognition.  The humor in the poetry is reflected in Nancy Carpenter’s charming pen and ink illustrations.  I love the observer perspective of the illustrations:  peeks through an open door, clasped hands, the view from the treehouse.  Exuberant Emma and thoughtful Jessica emerge from the pages fully realized, clearly revealing the sweet and the annoying elements of sisterhood.  It’s hard to pick a favorite page but Jessica cutting a piece of pie in EXACTLY equal pieces may be one of them.  This is a terrific book for young readers but sisters of all ages will see themselves in this perceptive  book.  I know exactly what I am getting MY sister for her birthday this year!

Cindy: I am the older sister to a younger brother, too, and the emotions George presents cross the gender lines. Sibling relationships are fascinating, and this sweet poetry book looks at the full range of emotions from frustration to adoration. And, in addition to some fine poetry, this is a verse novel of sorts for the young reader as the poems combine to tell a story about the girls’ relationship. I agree with all of Lynn’s comments above, including those about the delightful illustrations that really capture the sibling experience, so I’m going to highlight Kristine’s website that is a treasure trove for teachers and students. First, she has a selection of quotes and resources about poetry called Poetry Thinks:

“Poetry, like rain, should fall with elemental music…poetry for children should keep reminding them … that the English language is a most marvelous and availing instrument.”

David McCord, Poet
Interview 3/87: The Five Owls

In the section called Poetry Aloud you can hear Kristine read some of her poems…with sound effects. For instance in “Locker” you hear the combination lock spinning in the background. There’s also a section for teachers with teaching guides and for students with samples of her poems, writing ideas and other fun.  Add this to your poetry unit resources and make an effort to share poetry every day in your classroom this year.

For more Nonfiction Monday blog posts, head to Ana’s Nonfiction Blog today.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "Emma Dilemma by Kristine O'Connell George"

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  1. I’m an only child so I’m certain that I’d learn a lot from this lovely picture book that seems to ring true with its fresh voice. Thank you for sharing this. Also enjoyed the poetry!

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