By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 10, 2020
For many youngsters, the current pandemic conditions may be exacerbating sibling conflict. Meanwhile, grown-ups may be sorely missing seeing their brothers and sisters. These relationships are complicated.
For many of us, siblings are part of our earliest memories. Growing humans often feel a natural rivalry with littermates as they compete for territory and parental attention. In one moment a sib may feel like your nemesis and in the next, your closest ally. Many of us have felt murderous rage toward our siblings, yet at the same time we can feel fiercely protective of them. These are the people who know us the best. In celebration of National Sibling Day, here are ten of our favorite sibling relationships from a diverse collection of books.
In Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, nine-year-old Beatrice "Beezus" Quimby is perpetually exasperated and often mortified by her wildly imaginative little sister, Ramona, age four. To name a few of her more eccentric habits, Ramona insists on wearing a pair of homemade paper rabbit ears and pretending to be the Easter Bunny. She drags a string behind her, insisting that she is walking a pet lizard named Ralph. She routinely wreaks havoc, whether in public or at home. But Beezus learns that even if she doesn't always like her little sister, she will always love her. The book is the first of a series that increasingly features the whimsical Ramona.
In Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem Finch have each other's backs as they navigate uncertain terrain, both figurative and literal. The story follows them through hard times, including Jem's transition into adolescence and the gravity of their father's work trying to combat racial inequality in the Deep South.
The Maggie B., a gorgeous picture book written and illustrated by Irene Haas, tells the story of a wish coming true. Margaret Barnstable wishes on a star one night to sail away on a ship of her own, along "with someone nice for company." She wakes up aboard The Maggie B. with her baby brother James. It's a lovely children's story featuring an adventurous and highly capable little girl who bravely takes on the high seas, while nurturing and protecting her wee brother.
In the futuristic Ender's Game, the first in a series by Orson Scott Card, Ender and his older sister Valentine become caught up in the earth's war with an alien species referred to as "buggers." The gifted Ender ends up on the front lines battling buggers, while back at home, Valentine quietly works to defend her brother against homegrown threats, including their eldest brother, Peter.
In Suzanne Collins's blockbuster trilogy, tenacious Katniss famously enters The Hunger Games to protect her tender younger sister from having to go into battle. The relationship between the two sisters represents the core of this epic story—the battle to preserve humanity and kindness over power, wealth, and domination. Katniss's strength is a model for her sister, while Prim's gentle innocence motivates Katniss to keep fighting.
As Hurricane Katrina approaches their small Mississippi community, fifteen-year-old Esch and her three brothers have a lot on their minds. While their alcoholic father grows increasingly worried about the impending storm, Esch realizes she is pregnant; Randall, the oldest, dreams of a basketball scholarship; Skeetah, sixteen, struggles to keep his prized puppies alive; and seven-year-old Junior, whose birth meant the death of their mother, often hides under the porch to escape his father's anger. In the face of disaster, the siblings must rely on each other for survival. Jesmyn Ward's National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones has been hailed a modern-day classic.
Sisters Elfrieda and Yolandi are in two very different places. Elf is a world-renowned pianist—wealthy, happily married, and suicidal. Yoli is a beguiling mess, a divorced single mother, stumbling through life while battling to keep her older sister alive. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews offers a profound reflection on the complex relationship between two sisters as they navigate love and loss.
The twins at the center of I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson have gone from being inseparable to barely speaking. This captivating YA novel jumps back and forth, before and after the estrangement. Noah narrates the early years and Jude the latter. Will they find their way back to each other?
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett's latest novel, asks questions about what constitutes home, fortune, and family. Brother and sister Maeve and Danny cling to one another as their family implodes. Though, as adults, they both live independent, successful lives, they find they are only ever truly comfortable with each other. In the end, they find they must confront their troubled past in order to find peace.
These characters remind us how much we love our siblings—even though they drive us crazy sometimes! Who are your favorite literary sibs? Let us know in the comments.