Older, younger, or twin; hero, tormentor, or pest, brothers are for life. Other than sisters, they're our closest relatives, and they're a part of our history we can't escape (not that we'd want to). The special bond has been immortalized over the years in children's books about brothers that are a must-read for any child who has a male sibling or is about to become one. These books put into words this unique relationship between two, three, or more brothers, not to mention the often-conflicting feelings that crop up on a daily basis.
There are so many books out there about becoming a big brother that they could have taken up a post of their own. The best ones lay out the situation simply, illustrating the brother's growth and explaining the importance of their new role. Then there are titles that show brother vs. brother rivalry in all its messy glory — but always end with the brothers becoming friends (or at least calling a truce) again. If you're looking for heartwarming tales, they're out there, too, in the form of Little Critter, Charlie & Mouse, and more.
In time, your kids will grow to appreciate classic books about brothers for older readres, like The Outsiders, Stick, and even The Brothers Karamazov. Until then, enjoy the ones on this list, and prepare for multiple readings.
1. 'What Brothers Do Best,' by Laura Numeroff
What's great about brothers? They can do puzzles and make music with you, push you on a swing, and help you climb a tree. Best of all, they can love you in a way no other family member can. With charming pictures and simple text, this book neatly captures the joy of having a brother.
2. 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,' by Judy Blume
Being the oldest kid is not an easy task, as Peter Hatcher can tell you. His toddler brother, Fudge, gets away with everything from tantrums to writing on Peter's homework. Then comes the day that Fudge makes off with Peter's pet turtle. How much can a brother stand?
3. 'I Am a Big Brother!' by Caroline Jayne Church
"Our new baby arrived today. I'm a big brother now, hooray!" The narrator of this board book explains that he's big enough now to help his parents with the care of his new sibling. A terrific choice to help the youngest big bros understand their new role in the family.
4. 'Big Little Brother,' by Kevin Kling
"It's all my fault. I wanted a little brother," sighs the 4-year-old protagonist. But sometimes wishes come at a price: By age 2, the little sib is not only a pest, he's also grown to be taller than his big brother! How the two eventually become good friends is the subject of this fun book.
5. 'My Little Big Brother,' by Richard Nelson
Another upside-down big/little brother tale: On the planet Zanduga, people don't grow the way they do on earth. So middle child Jack is actually much bigger than his older brother, and sometimes he wishes it didn't work out that way.
6. 'The New Small Person,' by Lauren Child
For years, Elmore Green has enjoyed a delightful life as an only child. No one changes the TV channel, moves his toys, or eats any of the jelly beans his uncle gives him. Then comes the "new small person," Albert, who changes all that. From the author of the Charlie and Lola series comes this entertaining and very honest look at how a big brother moves from resentment to affection.
7. 'Tikki Tikki Tembo,' retold by Arlene Mosel
Brother stories have been around almost as long as there have been brothers. Case in point: this ancient Chinese folktale, which is still entertaining kids after many centuries. Younger brother Chang's name means "little or nothing," while his older sib has the honored moniker of Tikki tikki tembo-no sari rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, meaning "the most wonderful thing in the world." When a crisis strikes, the brothers discover that a "nothing" can be a hero, and a long name can do more harm than good.
8. 'Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team,' by Audrey Vernick
Move over, Duggars! This inspiring picture book, set in the '30s, tells the true story of the Acerra family of New Jersey. Of their 16 children, 12 were boys, all of whom were passionate ballplayers. Together, they made a full baseball lineup (including three on the bench) that became the longest-playing brother team of all time. More importantly, their talent was only surpassed by their love and devotion to their family.
9. 'Big Brothers Don't Take Naps,' by Louise Borden
Nicholas admires big brother James for all the things he can do: write his name, ride the school bus, rake leaves. Plus there's one thing he doesn't do: take naps. Will Nick ever grow up enough to enjoy all those perks of big-brotherhood?
10. 'My Brother Is a Superhero,' by David Solomons
Talk about unfair! Luke is the one who's into comic books, but it's his big brother, Zack, who's given superpowers by Zorbon the Decider. (Just Luke's luck that he had to go pee right when Zorbon showed up.) Naturally, Luke is envious of Zack's new identity, but when trouble strikes, this little brother realizes that the world's fate may lie in his hands, after all.
11. 'Builder Brothers: Big Plans,' by Jonathan and Drew Scott
The Scotts are two of the most famous brothers on TV today, thanks to their hit show Property Brothers. Here, they bring their message of brotherhood and creativity to the smallest readers. Despite their family's skepticism, young Jonathan and Drew want to build something amazing. Can they prove that "little people can do big things"? (If your kids like this book, watch for their new release, Better Together, due out this fall.)
12. 'The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher,' by Dana Alison Levy
The four Fletcher boys navigate the minefield of brotherhood, new-school jitters, class projects, weird neighbors, cats in the bathtub, and more, all with humor and family loyalty. Oh, and they just happen to be a multicultural family with two dads. Fans of Fudge and Ramona will devour this series, too.
13. 'Confiscated!' by Suzanne Kaufman
Dino-bros Brooks and Mikey fight over every possession in the house: balloons, stuffed animals, a Mexican wrestling mask, Grandpa's tuba. Mom's solution each time? "Confiscated!" Finally, when there's nothing left to play with, the brothers figure out a way to get along. A book guaranteed to give moms ideas... and kids a new vocabulary word.
14. 'Just Me and My Little Brother,' by Mercer Mayer
Little Critter imagines all the things he and his little brother can do together: climb trees, go trick-or-treating, have space-gun battles in their bunk bed, even chase away bullies. Yes, they'll be an unbeatable team... just as soon as his brother learns to walk. The older brother in your household will enjoy seeing how many ways he can mentor his sib.
15. 'We Are Brothers, We Are Friends,' by Alexandra Penfold
Not all brothers are at each other's throats 24/7. Some not only get along, they also adore each other. Such a pair is the one in this sweet board book, told by an older brother who takes pride in being a teacher, defender, and friend all in one.
16. 'Charlie & Mouse,' by Laurel Snyder
Beginning readers will immediately take to this short chapter book about a pair of brothers who enjoy such small adventures as talking to lumps in the bed, leading the whole neighborhood to a party, and creating a rock-selling business.
17. 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 2: Rodrick Rules,' by Jeff Kinney
The Wimpy Kid series has been entertaining real-life kids — and making fans out of reluctant readers — for more than a decade. What's made it such a phenomenon? The drawings? The likable diarist, Greg Heffley? The hilarious plots? All of the above, plus Greg's all-too-realistic relationship with his older and younger brothers. In this installment, teen brother Rodrick knows an embarrassing secret about Greg that could ruin him if it ever becomes public. He couldn't possibly be that cruel... could he?