cover image The First Rule of Little Brothers

The First Rule of Little Brothers

Jill Davis, , illus. by Sarah McMenemy. . Knopf, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-84046-3

McMenemy's (Everybody Bonjours! ) mixed-media vignettes of brotherly loathe exude her customary élan; the renderings bring to mind the playful palettes and nimble shapes of Eisenhower-era graphic design. Unfortunately, her pictures are bogged down by a pedantic story. Shaped as a flashback offered by a father to his oldest son, it first seeks to assuage by acknowledging how tough life as the top banana to a “Bro-Zilla” can be. “I'd say: 'I am going to the bathroom. By myself !' ” recalls Dad. “And he'd say: 'Me too!' Aghhhh !” But while individual vignettes have their mild charms, they're mostly standard issue. Older siblings will recognize many of these: baby brother topples a building-block skyscraper, beheads a model dinosaur, slips his hand into his brother's. But the tone stays so even that the events blur into one another. Well before Davis (executive editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers) delivers the lesson—that little brothers copy big brothers as a way of expressing undying admiration—readers may drift off. Ages 5–8. (Nov.)