Brothers and sisters are like dogs and cats: not always the best of friends, but not necessarily natural enemies, either. They may snarl over territory and whine for their parents' attention, yet at the end of the day, you can find them peaceably resting or playing together. Some of the lucky ones even bond right from the beginning. This complicated (and often hilarious) relationship is captured in many terrific children's books about sisters and brothers that are sure to be a hit in your own household library.
The brother-and-sister dynamic is different from the one between sisters or brothers alone. There's a battle-of-the-sexes flavor to their fights, and it can be harder to decide what to play together. (Superheroes or bad kitties? Okay, we'll compromise and pretend the floor is hot lava... ) But for all the teasing and competing, there's also a mutual admiration and love, and when it really matters, brothers and sisters know they can count on each other for support, defense, and the occasional alibi.
If you're raising a sister-brother duo, they'll love reading these books about siblings with issues that sound all too familiar. But even same-gender sibs will get a kick out of the rivalry and revelry these titles offer.
1. 'Peter's Chair,' by Ezra Jack Keats
This classic book neatly captures the tough transition from only child to big-siblinghood. Peter, the hero of The Snowy Day, watches sadly as all his old furniture is painted pink and handed down to his baby sister. Fearing that his favorite chair will be next, Peter devises a plan: He'll run away with it! The siblings in your household will enjoy hearing the surprising plot twist.
2. 'Mitch and Amy,' by Beverly Cleary
From the author of the Ramona and Henry Huggins series comes this tale of fraternal twins Amy and Mitch. She's an advanced reader but poor at math; he's a math whiz but struggles with reading. They can't even agree on which TV show to watch. Deep down, though, they enjoy being twins, and that unity works in their favor when it comes to defeating the class bully.
3. 'My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother,' by Patricia Polacco
Tricia's tired of being outdone in everything by rotten Richie: running, jumping, spitting, picking the most blackberries. Just once, she wants to be better than he is at something. But when her wish comes true — followed by disaster — Tricia discovers what a gift it can be to have a big brother watching out for you.
4. 'Julius, the Baby of the World,' by Kevin Henkes
Lilly loved her baby brother before he was born. Now he's here, and Lilly resents having to share her room and her parents' affection. In a scenario familiar to many big siblings, Lilly's protective big-sister instincts finally kick into gear after a cousin dares to agree with her that Julius is awful. A must-read for any household with siblings.
5. 'The Magic Tree House, Books 1-4' by Mary Pope Osborne
Sisters and brothers can be a pretty unbeatable team when they put their minds to it. Jack and Annie have been doing it for the last 25 (!) years in this beloved early-reader series. In the first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, the sibs stumble across a book-filled tree house that has the ability to send them into any book of their choice. Together, Jack and Annie explore unfamiliar and exciting places and time periods, working together to figure out how to get back home. This boxed set includes The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon.
6. 'My Brother Charlie,' by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Twins Callie and Charlie have a lot in common, like their looks and their love of hot chocolate. The big difference between them is that Charlie has autism, which can be challenging for his sister to deal with. Actress Peete and her daughter Ryan based this book on their own family, which gives it an honest and touching authenticity.
7. 'Little Big Girl,' by Claire Keene
Matisse feels like a little person in a big world: Her shoes, teeth, car seat are all tiny compared to the gigantic city and its sights. Then her little brother arrives, and Matisse realizes that she's big enough to be a mentor to this tiny person. This book gets raves on Amazon for its simple illustrations and toddler-friendly text.
8. 'Louise Loves Art,' by Kelly Light
Which "art" does Louise love best? The kind she creates with paper and pencil, or her little brother, who also happens to be named Art? When Art the brother innocently destroys Louise's artistic masterpiece, Louise is naturally upset — but soon realizes that great art can sometimes be a team effort.
9. 'A Wrinkle in Time,' by Madeleine L'Engle
Meg and Charles Wallace Murry are an unusual pair: She's a smart but awkward teen; he's a genius preschooler. Together they travel through time and space with their friend Calvin to rescue their scientist dad, who vanished mysteriously months earlier. In the end, Meg's pure love for Charles Wallace conquers an evil force that threatens to destroy the universe itself. Talk about sibling power!
10. 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,' by E.L. Konigsburg
Adventurous big sister Claudia and financially-smart little brother Jamie devise a plan to run away from home and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, they discover a newly acquired sculpture that might be Michelangelo's, and Claudia is determined to be the one to find out the truth. Written long before the helicopter-parenting trend (imagine a brother and sister trying this scheme now!), this story celebrates independence and ingenuity.
11. 'I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato,' by Lauren Child
Charlie is the big brother every sibling wishes they had: patient, fun-loving, and quite clever when it comes to solving his sister's dilemmas. In this installment of the Charlie & Lola series, Lola's smart sib comes up with a way to cure her fussy eating habits. Baby carrots taste so much better when your brother tells you they're orange twiglets from Jupiter. Mashed potatoes become cloud fluff from Mt. Fuji. And those aren't really tomatoes — they're moonsquirters, which are something entirely different.
12. 'Max's Dragon Shirt,' by Rosemary Wells
Wells's Max & Ruby book series (and its accompanying TV series) has been delighting siblings for nearly 20 years. Ruby, the sensible older sibling, and her determined 3-year-old little brother make for an irresistible pair. Here, Ruby is on a mission to replace Max's worn-out pants. But Max spies a way-cool T-shirt at the department store. Guess who wins out?
13. 'The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight,' by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Brother and Sister Bear usually get along well in their big tree house down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country. But one grumpy day, a small mishap turns into a major yelling, toy-grabbing fight. Happily, Mama Bear is there to remind her cubs that sibling squabbles are like summer thunderstorms: They may be noisy, but they don't last forever. Other good sibling tales in the popular series include The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing, and The Berenstain Bears and the Blame Game.
14. 'The Evil Princess vs. the Brave Knight,' by Jennifer L. Holm vs. Matthew Holm
In this brand-new release, a princess and knight live together in a castle, but not very peaceably. She's into spell-casting and evildoing, while he gallantly rescues cats. Fights ensue, and the Magic Mirror ends up sending the two to their rooms. There, they realize that they need to join forces in order to win. Written by a real-life brother and sister, this twisted fairy tale will easily win over young siblings.
15. 'The Bad Birthday Idea,' by Madeline Valentine
Younger sister Alice longs to hang with big brother Ben, but all he wants to do is play robots. Her solution: ask for a cool new robot toy for her birthday. His reaction: total jealousy... and a decision he soon comes to regret. In the end, the birthday catastrophe turns into a new understanding between the sibs.