cover image Big Little Brother

Big Little Brother

Kevin Kling, illus. by Chris Monroe. Minnesota Historical Society/Borealis, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-87351-844-4

On top of sibling rivalry and displacement fears, the four-year-old narrator of this story has a bigger problem (literally): his two-year-old brother is taller than he is. “Now people think he is my older brother,” says the beleaguered, bespectacled boy. But when a bully threatens the narrator during pretend-play Thanks-giving preparations at daycare, having a big little brother comes in handy. Although the premise takes some suspension of disbelief, Kling, an adult author and NPR commentator, makes an assured children’s book debut. His narrator is endearingly nerdy and acutely observant: “He grabs the first donut he sees and holds it all day,” the boy says of his annoying sibling, later adding, “When he falls asleep at night, his hands unfold and donut crumbs fall out.” (Kling also sneaks in a joke about Thanksgiving dinner dynamics that should elicit a knowing grin from grownups.) Monroe (the Monkey with a Toolbelt series) has an eloquent, poignant ink line that gives her cartooning an empathic, deadpan vibe, and she gets a lot of comic mileage from the younger brother’s goggle-eyed, phlegmatic demeanor. It’s mumblecore for the picture-book crowd. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)