March 29, 2017

Waiting for Sophie

Written by Sarah Ellis
Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Pajama Press
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2017

Waiting can be so hard for little ones, especially when it's for a baby sister who is taking her time being born and growing up so you can play with her.  And this waiting is just about killing little Liam.
"Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I waited through half of kindergarten.  I waited through my birthday." Liam bounced on the bed. "Waiting is my worst thing. I want to jump on waiting and smash it to smithereens and flush it down the toilet." (pg. 8)
Fortunately Liam's Nana-Downstairs is adept at keeping him occupied with all kinds of "being bad" to pass the time: wearing pajamas all day, eating marshmallow sandwiches, painting Liam's bedroom door with purple polka dots and hurling playful insults at each other.  Finally Baby Sophie arrives in the world and is brought home and Liam thinks she is practically perfect.  
She had toes like peanuts and ears that the sun shone through.  The top of her head smelled especially nice.  (pg. 14)
From Waiting for Sophie 
by Sarah Ellis
illus. by Carmen Mok
For weeks, Sophie's big brother delights in making her laugh and stopping her from crying and getting her to burp.  But he wants more, hoping that the day when Sophie can walk and talk comes sooner than expected, since waiting can be so tiresome.  After months of more waiting, Nana-Downstairs, a handy person, has a new idea, and helps Liam create the G. O. F. (Get Older Faster) machine, an spectacular box of dials and screens and fancy pasta.  And though it doesn't seem to work on Sophie, it does seem to have an impact on Nana-Downstairs and on Liam's stuffie Lelefant and even on helping Liam grow up enough to help his father out. But will Sophie ever grow up?
From Waiting for Sophie
by Sarah Ellis 
illus. by Carmen Mok
I suspect Sarah Ellis is the indomitable Nana-Downstairs (who bears a striking resemblance to the author) who recognized the heartbreak of a child's waiting and possessed the unique imagination to create magic for her grandson to help ease that relentless waiting.  And even though it only appeased the waiting temporarily, Nana-Downstairs was able to provide him with skills that would serve him well for a long, long time.  

Sarah Ellis gives Liam a voice that is so filled with hope about his new sister and the promise of having a familial playmate that even his frustrations are natural and unfeigned.  He speaks with his heart, never with meanness or anger, though he acknowledges the annoyance of biding his time.  Sophie has a great big brother. And, although Waiting for Sophie is an early reader, rather than a picture book, the illustrations by Carmen Mok augment Sarah Ellis’ story with the innocence and family that the author’s words already convey.  

Young children being challenged to read their first chapter books will appreciate this early reader as it will undoubtedly speak to them.  So many know the anguish of waiting, whether for a new sibling to be born or some other significant life event, and will easily put themselves in Liam’s shoes.  Maybe they’ll undertake their own DIY project, with a little help from an adult, or maybe they’ll find their own coping strategies but you can be sure that they’ll appreciate Liam’s story of Waiting for Sophie and the fun that can be had with it.


  1. Thanks, Helen, for such a thoughtful and sympathetic reading. I hadn't actually thought of my resemblance to Nana-Downstairs but I do have red glasses and a basic competence with hand tools.

    1. I'd consider it a compliment. Nana-Downstairs is the kind of grandmother every child wants and needs to have around. And I'll bet you've used the soap trick for screws before!