BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Sona Sharma Very Best Big Sister (available here) is a wonderful read for 6+ and perfect for children who may have a new brother or sister along the way. The story explores family life and traditions for Sona and her Indian family as they welcome a new baby into the home.
Read on for our Review Panel's thoughts on the new book followed by a special guest post from Chitra, featuring five books that inspired her to tell family stories that are from her lived experiences and yet universal for children everywhere.
Book Title: Sona Sharma Very Best Big Sister (available here)
Author: Chitra Soundar
Illustrator: Jen Khatun
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: September 2020
Most Suitable for: Years 2-4
Reviewed by: Julie, Teacher.
Sona’s family are very important to her. When her mother is about to have a baby, Sona wants to be the best big sister she can be, which includes choosing a name for the baby. However, Sona is also concerned about sharing her beloved family with someone new - will a new baby change her family?
Sona is an engaging character, with worries of her own that other children would be able to relate to. Through her conversations with Elephant, her best friend, we hear her inner thoughts and her concerns about her place within the family once the new baby arrives. We see her struggling with the idea of a younger sibling, not wanting to share what she considers to be her belongings.
The story celebrates traditions surrounding the birth of a new child and the importance of the baby-naming ceremony in Hindu culture. The very useful glossary helps to explain the cultural words which may be unfamiliar to some readers. It is so important to see more books that reflect and celebrate everyday life for different people among the rich ethnic diversity in our country, and particular in early illustrated chapter books where choice can be limited. Jen Khatun's illustrations not only bring the story to life but also help to break up the text, which is perfect for younger readers who can be daunted by full pages of words.
This would be a lovely book to share in a classroom to show the differences and similarities between different cultures and family traditions, as well as relatable choice for children experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that come as part of expecting a new sibling.
Real Family Stories
by Chitra Soundar, author of Sona Sharma Very Best Big Sister (available here)
Sona Sharma lives in a large, joint family, full of happy people who argue sometimes. Relatives come unannounced, the phone rings often and everyone is always welcome whatever time it is. But is the new baby welcome? At first Sona isn’t so sure about sharing her family with the new baby. But with the help of her loving family and her favourite toy friend Elephant, she becomes the Very Best Big Sister for baby Minmini.
As a writer I’m always drawn to family stories. Sona Sharma has a lot of parallels to my own growing up, my anxieties as an almost 4-year old of having a new baby sister and how there was always the desire to be the Very Best Big Sister I can be. Even today.
For this list, I wanted to highlight chapter books featuring Indian characters in family settings. But such books are so rare even in the year 2020 in the British children’s market. So, here are some books for younger readers that put families front and centre of the chaos and the fun. Many of these books inspired me to tell stories that are from my lived experiences and yet universal for children everywhere.
Anna Hibiscus stories by Atinuke, published by Walker Books and illustrated by Lauren Tobia is a slice of Amazing Africa inside a beautiful family. Available here.
The Lulu series by Hilary Mckay published by Scholastic and illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. Available here.
The Penny Dreadful stories – especially the most timely – Penny Dreadful is Incredibly Contagious by Jo Nadin, published by Usborne and illustrated by Jess Mikhail. Available here.
Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry series that put the brothers at odds and yet together – published by Orion Books and illustrated by Tony Ross. Available here.
Clarice Bean by Lauren Child, published by Orchard Books depicts the relationship between a sister and a brother with so much joy and humour. Available here.
I hope readers will love Sona Sharma and her family that now includes her new baby sister Minmini and they light up the hearts of families just like little fireflies do in the dark.
Find out more about Reflecting Realities report here. https://clpe.org.uk/library-and-resources/research/reflecting-realities-survey-ethnic-representation-within-uk-children
Many thanks to the publishers for sending us a review copy and to Chitra for the guest post.
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