Big Red Lollipop by Rukshana Kahn, illustrated by Sophe Blackall

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Kahn
illustrated by Sophie Blackall

In Big Red Lollipop, Khan tells a story of sibling struggles and cultural differences, sparked by an invitation to a birthday party. When Rubina is invited to her first birthday party, her mother insists that she take her younger sister Sana with her. Rubina obeys her mother even though she knows that she will be shunned by her classmates for bringing her. Not only does Sana insist on winning all the party games and crying when she doesn't, in the dark of night she eats almost all of the big red lollipop that was in Rubina's goodie bag, despite the fact that she has already devoured her own green lollipop. Rubina is understandably angry and heartbroken. Rubina is not invited to any more parties after that and, a year or so later when Sana gets her first invitation, their mother again insists that the sisters join her. This time, the baby is even big enough to attend. Rubina says there is no way she is going to the party and tells her mother not to make Sana take Maryam either. Ami concedes and Sana happily heads off on her own. She returns home from the party with something for Rubina - a lollipop. 

I love how brilliantly Khan presents life among siblings alongside the equal challenge of becoming bicultural. Blackall's illustrations capture the simplicity and depth of the story magnificently. This has been a big hit at story time at the bookstore where I work. The kids and the parents are riveted by the story, waiting to see how it all turns out. This is the kind of story with a message that I can wholeheartedly embrace because it is both subtle and kind, allowing listeners to engage with the story, feel the emotions alongside the characters and come to their own conclusions. The beauty of Sana recognizing what Rubina has done for her, embodied in a big red lollipop and that is enough.

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