cover image The Wildest Brother

The Wildest Brother

Cornelia Funke, , illus. by Kerstin Meyer, trans. from the German by Oliver Latsch. . Scholastic/Chicken House, $16.99 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-439-82862-8

The formidable duo behind The Princess Knight and Pirate Girl presses on to an exploration of the relationship between a real-world sister and brother, with rip-roaring results. All day long, Ben, "lionhearted and elephant-strong," defends his big sister Anna from a man-eating monster (fighting it with "his three plastic swords, pumpkin-sized water pistol, and rubber knife"), moldy green ghosts (he shreds them and flushes them down the toilet) and a slime-burping monster (he tosses the intruder off the balcony). Anna's realistic reactions range from placid non-intervention to energetic tickling ("Big sisters, unfortunately, know exactly where little brothers are ticklish"). Meyer's virtuosity with the paintbrush possesses the same swashbuckling élan as Ben's monster-fighting skills. Spot illustrations keep the action brisk, and the white space around the drawings adds a kind of Wild West, open-space feel to the proceedings. Anna's trio of wide-eyed guinea pigs provide bonus giggles as they cheer Ben on from the sidelines. Funke delivers a comic twist when night comes. Odd noises drive Ben into big sister Anna's bed: "Then she protects him... And it is sooo wonderful to have a big, strong sister." Readers may well wish they had a Ben of their own to defend them—and an Anna, too. Ages 4-8. (May)