What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that young readers with siblings will certainly find it easy to relate to this book's characters: Abigail and Jacob fight a lot, but they care about each other, too. The language will be familiar to parents with young kids: boys sticking pussy willows up their noses and calling them furry boogers, etc. The siblings' reactions are also spot-on: When Jacob is found after being lost in a mall, the Great One insists, "I always knew you were okay. I mean, who'd want to steal you? You were just being a pain, same as always." Readers might pick up on gentle lessons about not doing something just because friends do and about compromising -- but mostly they'll be laughing at the situations that these spunky siblings are constantly finding themselves in.
What's the story?
Judy Blume's THE PAIN AND THE GREAT ONE debuted as a picture book in 1974, a classic tale about a brother and sister each convinced that their parents love the other more. The feuding siblings, now gracing a new beginner chapter book series, haven't aged a day since. Abigail (aka the Great One) is still the know-it-all third grader, lording her two years over her mischievous first-grade brother Jacob (aka the Pain). Six short chapters alternate between big sister and little brother viewpoints as they hit the county fair with their aunt, try Boogie boarding at the beach, get lost in the mall, and go canoeing in the Everglades with their grandparents. In a humorous twist, the seventh and final chapter is told by their pet cat, Fluzzy, who's annoyed about being left home alone while the family's on vacation.
Is it any good?
Blume's vignettes, punctuated by black-and-white line drawings, are timeless in their simplicity and old-fashioned charm. The gentle humor rises from familiar kid situations (boys sticking pussy willows up their noses and calling them furry boogers) and word play (when a doctor warns the boys not to put anything in "bodily orifices," the Pain wonders, "Body offices? I started thinking about having offices inside my body. And every day tiny people would to work there.").
The appeal here is Blume's spot-on depictions of kids and their squabbles. Even adults will smile at such understatements as "If [the Pain] fell in and got eaten by an alligator, Mom and Dad would be really mad at Grandpa Pete." The verbal scuffling never turns physical, and the affection between the siblings is begrudging but nonetheless evident despite their best attempts to hide it. With chapters split equally between the Great One's and the Pain's perspectives, readers will likely identify more on birth order than gender. Overall, this is a funny, fast-moving pick for early readers.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the siblings' relationship. They bicker, taunt each other, etc. Does any of this sound familiar? Can you find any examples in this book that show that maybe Jacob and Abigail don't hate each other as much as they'd like everyone to believe?
When Jacob and Abigail can't agree on a movie, their dad says they need to compromise, or decide together. How do you and your family members compromise? Kids: Can you think of recent examples where you took turns or came up with another solution?