cover image It's My Birthday, Too!

It's My Birthday, Too!

Lynne Jonell, Petra Mathers. G. P. Putnam's Sons, $13.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23323-4

Jonell and Mathers hit the bull's-eye with this look at sibling rivalry, which brings together the two lead characters from their earlier books. Christopher, the magically empowered toddler of Mommy Go Away!, now six (judging by the candles on his cake), is older brother to redheaded Robbie, who fashioned make-believe reptiles from his family's belongings in I Need a Snake. In this latest installment, it's Christopher's birthday, leaving the younger sibling to play second banana. After cruelly disabusing Robbie of the idea that it's his birthday, too, Christopher lowers another boom: the younger boy can't come to the party. ""You came last year,"" Christopher says, ""and you wrecked everything."" Rejected as a brother, Robbie assumes the role of compliant puppy instead--with such gusto (including howling during the singing of ""Happy Birthday"") that Christopher reaches a grudging appreciation of his sibling's devotion. The boys' parents are seen but not heard (they are silent partners in the party preparations); Robbie and Christopher forge the resolution themselves, and it feels both satisfying and authentic. Once again, Mathers's brightly crayoned, stick-figure drawings exhibit wit and poignancy: Robbie's tiny eyes under furrowed brow or topping off a grin express the pains and joys of siblinghood. Jonell's story, told mostly through dialogue, is as credible as if she were eavesdropping on two primary- school-age brothers. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)