Friday, October 06, 2006


BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is an admittedly cute and sentimental picture book describing the special experiences shared between big and little sisters.

The text is simple and straight forward. I would say the text is understated. "In this family, we have two sisters. She's the Big Sister. I'm the Little Sister." And there you have the first three pages of text.
The text utilizes common childhood experiences.

Example 1: "The Big Sister gets all the new clothes. I'm the Little Sister. I get all her old clothes."
Example 2: "The Big Sister isn't afraid of the dark. I'm the Little Sister. Help!"

BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER is a good book because it presents universal truths of sisterhood. No matter which side you're on. "The Big Sister is very neat. I'm the Little Sister. I'm not." And the classic "The Big Sister thinks she's always right. I'm the Little Sister. I know I'm right."

But the text, good as it is could never stand alone. LeUyen Pham was an illustrator before she was an author. In this text, it is Pham's true-to-life illustrations which capture human expressions and experiences perfectly. The text uses color limitedly. Let me explain, she uses several shades of brown--ranging from dark brown to golden brown--several shades of pink, red, and sparing amounts of green--for a houseplant. I think this is quite effective in setting tone and mood. Although illustrations are something that MUST be SEEN rather than described to be appreciated, I will try to describe some of the comic scenes that make this book a success.

On a two-page spread of text which reads simply "The Big Sister usually does things first. I'm the Little Sister. I'm always catching up." There are six or seven illustrated scenes. The first shows the girls at the bathroom sink looking at their reflections. The older sister is proudly showing that she's just lost a tooth. The second scene shows the older sister vacuuming with the younger sister sitting in her way happily continuing to cut paper dolls. the third (and possibly fourth scene) shows a boy giving the older sister a bouquet of flowers. The little sister stands several inches away on the page with her tongue sticking out, fingers in her ears. The next page shows the big sister helping the little sister learn to ride her bike--a banana seat for those truly interested (Side note, if there had been streamers--it would have been perfect!!!). The second illustration on that page involves both sisters on the floor reading. But the older sister is reading a "big-kid" book and the little sister is reading an ABC book. The final illustration on that page shows the two girls measuring themselves on a wall. With lots of inches marked in between the "Big One" and "the Little One." Clearly, the illustrations do more of the talking and conveying than the text does.

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