10.04.2011

Once Upon a Baby Brother written by Sarah Sullivan and illustrated by Tricia Tusa



Once Upon a Baby Brother is the other sibling book that I discovered when setting up a display at work for Sibling Stories that I think is fabulous. Tricia Tusa has long been a favorite illustrator of mine and her whimsical, imaginative style is perfectly suited to this book by Sarah Sullivan who, in Lizzie, has created a character who is every bit as imaginative, whimsical and creative as Tusa is in her artwork. 
Sullivan's sibling story is pretty typical. Lizzie, is in second grade and five or so years older than her baby brother Marvin, finds him a huge nuisance, which he is. What is awesome about Once Upon a Baby Brother  and Lizzie is how she comes to accept and even appreciate the presence of her little brother through her chosen form of creative expression - writing and illustrating her own stories. Lizzie has a magnificent imagination and is always overflowing with stories to share, so many that she even is happy to tell her stories to the family dog, Big George. But, mom and dad don't seem to be as able to listen to Lizzie's stories as they used to. Fortunately, Lizzie's teacher, Miss Pennyroyal, makes story writing an everyday part of education.

Lizzie flourishes at school, making Marvin a bad guy in most of her stories (a Marvinasaurus, a dangerous Marvinfish and a pirate, among others) and is especially excited by the assignment to write a comic book. However, when Mom and Marvin go to grandma's for the week, writer's block sets in.

Lizzie realizes that Marvin is her muse and her comic book flows forth. What Sullivan excels at in Once Upon a Baby Brother is how succinctly and expressively she writes about the joys of creativity and writing, specifically. In describing Lizzie's experiences, on her own and when Marvin is making her life difficult, Sullivan describes the writing process and even gives tips that should inspire and encourage aspiring authors. Once Upon a Baby Brother is longer than most picture books. Lizzie's stories and her own sibling story take up a lot of text. Most younger listeners (3 and 4) may not be able to sit through this book. Older listeners, the ones Once Upon a Baby Brother is aimed at, will not find themselves too old for a picture book, especially one of this calibre. If you need to buy a teacher gift this year, Once Upon a Baby Brother is the book to get. I can't think of a better, more exciting and inspiring teaching tool to have in the classroom.

A look into Tricia Tusa's studio and creative process can be seen at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. A great review of Once Upon a Baby Brother and hands on use of the book as a writing tool can be enjoyed over at Brimful Curiosities.

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