March 23, 2014

Shh! My Brother's Napping

by Ruth Ohi
North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
For release April 2014

When Mommy and her boys return from grocery shopping, it is evident that baby brother needs to rest.  He's already sleeping in his stroller, and Mommy insists that everything be kept quiet because he's napping.  In rhyming verse, Ruth Ohi shares the older brother's reminders from Mommy and himself about his sleeping brother, though he is still a young child himself and interested in making music with pots and pans, and wanting to include his little brother in his fun. He does soon realize that there are lots of activities that he can do quietly, like reading and painting.  Of course, he may know that he's supposed to be quiet, but the illustrations indicate that his actions don't always focus on the quiet aspects.  After all, reading can be quiet, if you don't throw your book when it gets scary.  And painting can be very calming and silent, as long as you don't take your paintbrush to your little brother's face.  And building a town of blocks and books is very structured, unless it falls.  But it's the reciprocity of their relationship that brings this story to its surprisingly appropriate conclusion.

Everyone knows Ruth Ohi from her darling books about Chicken, Pig, Cow (Annick Press), siblings, and most recently Kenta and the Big Wave (Annick, 2013; reviewed here).  As in most of her books, including those she illustrates for others, Ruth Ohi speaks to relationships between friends or family members, both positive and those in need of reconciliation.  Here big brother knows what he should be doing, as Mommy reminds him, "Shh! Your brother's napping." He tries to follow Mommy's instructions and do quiet activities like reading, painting, and block-building, though it is hard when there's so many fun things to do, including with your little brother.  There is no evident meanness or sibling rivalry, just the desire for the boy mouse to include his baby brother in his play, though not always in the most thoughtful of manners.  In fact, when little brother does awaken and the two siblings start to interact, baby brother recognizes the need to reciprocate that kindness of quiet.  Well, maybe.  Shh! My Brother's Napping is a delightful tale of sibling love from several angles, including the one from which Mommy observes them.

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