April 12, 2016

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Writing Exercise: Sibling Rivalry?

Recommended for: Upper Elementary and Above
Poetry, Memoir or Fiction We’re going to bust up the “my sibling is so annoying” stereotype. If you're a kids' lit author, this is a great exercise for you. How do we do escape the stereotype without taking all the tension out of sib relationships?
One choice is to write about a moment when the balance tipped – unexpectedly – from playful to dangerous. (Poet Marie Howe has some wonderful poems on this topic.) Another choice, good for younger writers, is to write about the game that you and your brother play – the game no one else understands or knows the rules for.
An example: a friend of mine thinks her children hate each other. She doesn’t know (I found out from my kids, who are friends with her kids), that her two children have secret discussions through the bathroom door. My own children once addressed Christmas presents to each other with names I didn't recognize -- names from an imaginary world they'd made up.
For those of us who no longer live with our sisters, option 3: Choose a moment that symbolizes the sibling relationship for you. (Like the time I was babysitting my brother and his friend Doug and the two stinkers went on strike against me. Picket signs and everything. Points for creativity.) I’ve been working on a sibling poem for several years. Below is a version from 1996 – I couldn’t find the latest revision! I’d been to Israel and Egypt in 1990. You’ll see the influence of the desert landscape. The siblings in my poem get along. The tension comes from parents, outsiders in this landscape (choice #4). If you like this last idea, check out Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Veldt.” The parents in his future world are outsiders in the extreme. You'll find the story in his book, “The Illustrated Man.” Bedouin
Laura Shovan Bounding downstairs in his leopard skin bathrobe and Underoos, he scavenges milk and cereal with marshmallows. The younger kids follow. Breakfast done, building begins. They slide down the stairs on blankets raided from the upstairs closet. Chairs make good tent poles. Books and table weights keep out sand. He crawls inside first, as eldest son, proclaims it safe. “The carpet is a creeping desert,” he says, “So hot it might burn your feet. I can already see blisters.” Feeling their bare soles redden and swell they scramble underneath where the light is blue from blankets and the glow of cartoons on TV. They watch, entranced, huddling together against the approach of sandstorms, hungry animals, something catastrophic, afternoon. Upstairs their parents wake to parched throats, sandy eyes. It is too quiet, they say. Cautiously, they move downstairs, and find a tent-city, where they are tourists. Gone is the comfortable room, the plaid couches, the easy chairs, the decorative plants. The children, inside their tents, are watching the sun rise orange over the dunes.
Check the previous post and related comments for more on the sibling theme, including some great comments from kids’ lit bloggers about books that include realistic siblings.
One I read recently with my kids was Elizabeth Enright’s, Gone Away Lake. It won a Newbery Honor in ’57. The main characters are a sister, younger brother, and the cousin they spend the summer with.


Author Amok said...

How could I forget the sibs in "Ginger Pye" and Cynthia Lord's "Rules"?

Did you think of any more good books for positive/realistic sibling relationships?

Anonymous said...

I love that you are doing this! I liked the first Drift House, but the sibling relationship was so awful in the beginning of the sequel that I just put it down. My three kids get on each others' nerves sometimes but they have really close relationships where they watch each other's backs.

We are in the middle of watching Iqbal, about a deaf/mute teenager who wants to be a great cricket player. In the movie, his sister is his greatest friend and supporter. My kids can relate more to that than the kids who spend all their time cutting each other down.

As far as sibling relationships in other books...hmmm...The siblings in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe have interesting relationships. The Cullen siblings in Twilight are very tight. I haven't read the Magic Treehouse books much, but I think Annie and Jack get along pretty well.

Author Amok said...

Thanks for the comment, Tabatha. With help from you and others, I'm starting to put together a nice list of literary siblings we love! I'll have to look for hte movie you're recommending. Sounds really interesting.

I agree about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But Susan is my favorite sibling, and I don't like what C.S. Lewis did to her in the later books of the series.

Anonymous said...

I just got around to reading your previous entry and see that other people mentioned The Magic Treehouse too! BTW, Siblings Without Rivalry is also one of my favorite parenting books! I am an only child so I didn't know anything about siblings. I read it after my second child was born and I thought it was great. And I also was rooting for the Ravens...ah well!

Other good sibling books? Where the Lilies Bloom, Tuck Everlasting, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Series of Unfortunate Events, the Weasleys from Harry Potter?

Author Amok said...

Yes! I thought of the Weasleys, too. Some people have been sending me titles by email. I'm going to post a recommended reading list this week.

I'm sure there are more out there. Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, just bought my daughter "Little House in the Big Woods" today.

Edie Hemingway said...

My brother and I used to love playing our made-up game of "Hide from the Grown-ups," and when we washed dishes together, we'd tell stories about the adventures of "Sammy, the sponge."

A few more books with strong sibling relationships: A Wrinkle in Time--just think of Meg's love for Charles Wallace; and more recent books: Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm and A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg.

Anonymous said...

Good exercises, Laura, and an interesting discussion. And lots of new books to read. I'm glad Tabitha mention Lemony Snickets' characters. Although it's very dated, there's the sibling relationship in THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW. Sarah.

Author Amok said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm hoping to put up the list with all of your suggestions this week. Some great ideas here.

I saw "Hotel for Dogs" on Friday. Did anyone read the book? I'm guessing it's better than the movie, but the sibs in the flick worked well together.

Anonymous said...

Laura, I am glad you covered this topic. At the risk of being too self-promoting, my newest novel is all about sibling relationships. It's even called THE OTHER SISTER! It's suitable for high-school-age and older readers. For more information about it, please go to my web site and click on "books."

Thanks, Pat