Make Room for Baby, Child!

Where sibling rivalry leaves off, a lifetime of learning how to forgive begins. Some helpful children’s book picks.

When a new baby joins the family, older siblings usually join in the rejoicing — at first. But, as the new reality of a suddenly expanded family sinks in, older children sometimes feel that their place in the unit isn’t as special or secure as it used to be. To a certain extent, they’re right. “One more” means “somewhat less” — less time with Mom and Dad, less attention, less uncontested turf (not to mention toys). Even the best-behaved, most generous kids may have uncharacteristic bouts of jealousy, frustration and anger.

It’s an age-old problem that can affect children of all ages. We just need to think of the stories of Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers to see what happens when sibling rivalry goes unchecked. Although the rivalries that may come from welcoming a new baby are certainly less spectacular, they can still bring challenges to daily family life. These books can help small ones to welcome even smaller ones into the family.

Julius, The Baby

of the World

Written and illustrated

by Kevin Henkes

Harper Trophy, 1995

32 pages, $6.99

Before Lily’s brother was born, she was the very best sister in the world. In her dreams, she hummed lullabies to him and whispered secrets. Once Julius arrived and their parents proclaimed him to be “the baby of the world,” Lily had a change of heart. Lily hated Julius for being — well, a baby. To Lily, this little brother was nothing more than a “silly lump.” When Cousin Garland agrees with her and even adds that Julius’ diaper is stinky, Lily does an about-face. No one, but no one, Lily says, can talk about her little brother in that way. Ages 2 to 5.

I’m a Big Brother

Written by Joanna Cole

Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss

Harper Collins, 1997

32 pages, $6.99

A big brother introduces the newest member of his family. A baby has come — a baby who is too little to walk, talk, eat pizza or play with toys. A big brother, like himself, is needed to help the new baby. In addition to stressing the helper role of siblings, this cheerful book addresses the uncertainty older brothers and sisters might feel. For example, Mommy and Daddy show the big brother pictures of when he was little and assure him that he is special, too. A note to parents provides helpful coaching about ways in which they might offer a little more guidance, reassurance and love to the older child. Also available: I’m a Big Sister. Ages 2 to 5.

Vera’s Baby Sister

Written and illustrated

by Vera Rosenberry

Henry Holt and Company, 2005

32 pages, $16.95

Vera has had it with her new baby sister, Ruthie, and the attention everyone pays her. “It used to be nice here,” Vera complains, “but now there is no room for me.” Grandfather suggests that he and Vera build a bean tent. Together they turn over the soil and plant the seeds. By summer’s end, Vera proudly shares her harvested beans with her family. When Ruthie later stretches her arms up to Vera, Vera happily realizes that baby sisters grow, too. Maybe, just maybe, Vera will build a special bean tent next year for Ruthie. Ages 4 to 8.

The New Baby

Written by Fred Rogers

Photographed by Jim Judkis

Penguin Putnam Books, 1996

32 pages, $5.99

In his gentle manner, the late Mister Rogers talks to brothers and sisters about the feelings they might experience when a new baby joins the family. Older children might feel grumpy or even wish they were babies again as Mom and Dad focus on the new arrival. It helps to remember, he says, that older brothers and sisters have a special place in the family — a place that no one else can ever take. Ages 2 to 5.

Fine As We Are

Written and illustrated

by Algy Craig Hall

Boxer Books, 2008

32 pages, $14.95

When Mom asks Little Frog if he would like any brothers or sisters, Little Frog assures her “we’re just fine as we are.” Too late! Dozens of baby frogs have already arrived. The noisy babies follow Little Frog everywhere. Frustrated at first, Little Frog grows to enjoy being the leader and teaching his brothers and sisters how to ribbit, stick out their tongues and play leapfrog. Ages 2 to 5.

Waiting for May

Written and illustrated

by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Puffin, 2007

32 pages, $5.99

“I know that when other kids get baby brothers or sisters, their mothers’ bellies get big and they go to the hospital. But we’re not getting our baby this way. We are going to get ours from China.” This story tells of the anticipation and excitement that one soon-to-be big brother experiences as his family waits to adopt a baby. It not only shows the love and longing he feels for his new baby sister but also provides a tremendous amount of information about international adoptions — the application process, home visits, getting to know the baby from a distance, traveling for the big event. Based on the author’s life, this is a poignant story and terrific resource rolled into one. Ages 4 to 8.

Best-Ever Big Sister

Written and illustrated by Karen Katz

Grosset & Dunlap, 2006

12 pages, $5.99

There’s a big difference between a new baby and a big sister. Babies need help getting dressed, but big sisters can dress themselves. Babies ride in strollers, but big sisters ride trikes. Babies sleep in cribs, but big sisters sleep in beds. Each flip of the page shows big and little sisters in action and affirms the loving relationship that they share. Vibrant, colorful illustrations and a lift-the-flap format invite reader involvement. Ages 2 to 6.

What the No-Good

Baby is Good For

Written by Elise Broach

Illustrated by Abby Carter

Putnam, 2005

32 pages, $15.99

When the no-good baby came to John’s house, she did all the things that no-good babies do. She cried and grabbed toys and went to sleep right at the time that John was ready to bang his drum. So, after months and months, he told his mother that the no-good baby would have to go. Surprisingly, Mom agrees and begins to pack the no-good baby’s things in a bag. As they pack, Mom and John chat and John decides that the no-good baby should stay. She has brought a lot of good changes to the family, after all. This tongue-in-cheek story brings gentle humor to the case of sibling rivalry and balances children’s love for a new baby with their need for special “alone time” with Mom. Ages 4 to 8.

The Crawford Sisters

write from Pittsburgh.