As a middle child, I have the blessing — OK, sometimes the curse — of being both a younger sibling and an older sibling at the same time. I got to be the baby in the family for a few short years before my younger sister came along and crowned me a new Big. When that happened, I remember being so excited for the chance to teach my little sis all the fun things my older sister had taught me. I couldn't wait to show her how to slide down the banister in the dining room, where the best climbing trees in the backyard were, and what the best hiding spots for hide-and-seek were. I wanted to teach her all the things my older sister had taught me, because even though she stole the heads off of my Barbie dolls and made me eat her vegetables when my parents weren't looking, she was the best older sister I knew, and I wanted to be just like her.
One of the best things my older sister did was share her interest in books with me. Whenever she read a book she really liked, she made sure to save it for me. All of her favorite picture books became mine when she got too old for them, and I inherited her worn copies of Boxcar Children and Amelia Bedelia chapter books sometime in elementary school. When she moved on to reading young adult and adult novels, I dreaded hearing the words "you can read this when you're older," and anxiously awaited the day that she'd pass on whatever novels she'd been hiding because they were too scandalous for my little eyes.
In keeping with tradition, when I became an older sister, I decided to take on the role of master librarian and passed on my favorite books to my younger sister. I loved watching her laugh at the colorful pages of a picture book I knew by heart. When she came into my room in tears after reading the end of My Sister's Keeper, a book I couldn't wait for her to read, I gladly shared my tissues with her. Now, whenever she comes to my house, I send her out the door with a stack of books in-hand, and wait patiently by the phone for a call about whether she loved the book as much as I did. Especially as we've gotten older, sharing books has become something that keeps us close and gives us another reason to keep in touch (as if we need one).
If you're an older sibling, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. There's something special about sharing something you absolutely love with someone you absolutely love. Here are 9 books that will make you so excited to share with your younger siblings:
The Real Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
How fun is this picture book? Though I never think you're too old for picture books, this is one of those books that you can't wait to have someone to read it to once you "outgrow" it yourself. When I was younger, I used to ask anyone who was around to read it to me again and again. When my little sister came along, I couldn't wait to see her reaction to the rewritten fairy tale. Whose version of the story would she side with, the wolf or the pigs?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The only thing better than sharing books with a younger sibling is sharing imagination, and Where the Wild Things Are kills two birds with one stone. The beautiful illustrations, the wonderful storytelling, the mischief, and rumpus — what's not to love about this story? It's a story for generations, and sharing it with a younger member of yours is just as magical an experience as reading it yourself.
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A story about family, loyalty, and the unbreakable bonds between siblings, The Outsiders is the perfect book to give to your younger brother or sister. If you're giving it to your younger sister, you know she will fall in love with Soda Pop just like you did, and if you give it to your younger brother, you know he'll be drawn to Dally's tough-guy persona. But beware: when you pass it on, make sure to gift it with a pack of tissues as well.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
You remember how hard it was to establish your identity when you were growing up, and you know how hard it will be for your younger sibling. Junior, the protagonist of Sherman Alexie's coming of age novel, knows all too well what it's like, and his narrative and illustrations that accompany it authentically capture the adolescent experience. You'll want to hand this one over pre-high school.
King Dork by Frank Portman
Every young adult should get a chance to read this heartfelt, hilarious, offbeat rock 'n' roll high school novel. It has everything your teen self loved (i.e., sex, drugs, and music), and you know your little sibling will appreciate the punk rock attitude, vulgar language, and locker-room-style humor. Just make sure you hang on to this one until your little sibling is old enough to appreciate the references.
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Sibling relationships can be complicated, but in the end, the bonds between sisters and brothers are some of the strongest. In Franny and Zooey, the tie between siblings proves strong, even when the whole world seems disenchanting and nothing seems to make sense anymore. What better kind of story is there to share with your brother or sister, someone you promise to support no matter what?
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
OK, chances are your little bro or sis will have to read this in high school, but give them a leg up and save your copy of Slaughterhouse Five. It's humorous and biting, imaginative and absurd, and it will convince your siblings to become a pacifist, just like you. Besides, when your sibling reads it in school, she'll likely love it so much, she won't want to have to hand the school's copy back over to the teacher. Luckily, she'll have yours.
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs
An essay collection this hilarious, this poignant, this outrageous, should be handed down with care. There are stories of family dysfunction, true tales drug and alcohol addiction, and confessions of love and heartbreak, and each one is as clever and honest as the one before. After passing this one along, you will want to make sure you schedule a dinner date or a long phone call with your sibling to discuss your favorite selections.
A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
Not a book to hand off to your sibling until he or she is mature enough to handle the content, A Piece of Cake is moving, heartbreaking, and sometimes even disturbing memoir. After her mother dies when she is only 11, Cupcake Brown is forced down a long, dark path which includes drug dealing and addiction, prostitution, abuse, and homelessness, only to come out on the other side completely transformered. This gritty story of survival and perseverance against all odds will certainly put your siblings hardships in perspective, and show them that there's always a way to survive. You'll want to be around to give your sister or brother a hug once the book is done, though, because this is one emotional ride.