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18th November 2015

Top 5: Books about siblings

Elizabeth Gibson picks her top 5 books which explore the relationships of siblings: the love, the hate and the feelings in-between

I asked my brother for a Top 5 idea and he pitched this one—figures, I guess! I do like it when a book showcases sibling love—often it is more moving and rewarding to read about than romantic love. So, here is my Top 5. They all happen to be kids’ or young adult books but I wouldn’t have chosen them if I didn’t believe that they could be read and enjoyed by all ages.

One by Sarah Crossan
This is a sibling book with a difference: it tells the tale of conjoined twins. Grace and Tippi are joined at the waist and, perhaps surprisingly, are fairly content with their situation, with no real desire to be separated. Then, something unexpected happens that sets in motion a series of events that will have awful and irreversible consequences. As with Crossan’s The Weight of Water, One is told in free verse and is incredible—I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so tragic and powerful. It is almost worth reading just for the last few lines, which pretty much sum up what it is like to have a sibling.

Jo of the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
I think the fact that the author’s beloved brother died young might have something to do with the wonderful, tight-knit and caring family unit she created in the form of the three orphaned Bettany siblings. Joey, the youngest, is in fragile health—so Madge, at the tender age of twenty-four, starts a school in the Tyrol so Joey can study in the clean Alpine air. Dick, their brother, appears less often but it’s obvious that he adores his sisters. When Madge is entrusted with the care of a friend’s daughter, Robin, Joey immediately adopts her as an unofficial younger sister and her tenderness towards the little girl contrasts with her usually boisterous ways.

Forever Rose by Hilary McKay
The Cassons are one of the most lovable, artsy, chaotic families in children’s literature. Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo and Rose are as colourful and vibrant as their names and are all believable characters. Within the four Indigo and Rose have a particularly strong relationship with some adorable moments. Although all six books are amazing, I picked Forever Rose because the parents are quite distanced, allowing us to see even more clearly, the bond between the kids. It’s especially nice to see Saffy and Rose together as normally, they seem to interact together the least amongst the siblings. And in the end… I won’t spoil it, but it is truly lovely.

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine
This is one of my favourite books for its pure honesty. There is zero pretence; the souls of all the characters are laid bare. Fifteen-year-old Rowan has to look after her little sister alone while aching from the death of her older brother. What appears to be a chance encounter leads her to make friends with two kooky teens whom she would ordinarily have nothing to do with. They then just… live their lives. There’s no great plot arc or conventional structure; it is just a slice of life, so real and refreshing. The relationship between the three siblings, two alive and one dead, is what propels the story and unites these characters. Everybody should read this book!

The Dream Snatcher by Annie Dalton
Another of my absolute favourite books. The kids, Joe and Flora, aren’t actually siblings yet, but it’s pretty clear their parents are an item, and in the sequel they are indeed stepsiblings. Packaged like a simple fantasy novel, it is actually quite dark and sad. From the moment Joe and Flora board a ship to sail through a field of dreams, the reader is bombarded with eerily stunning imagery. Dalton also pitches some quite profound ideas about dreams—where they come from and their significance. Joe and Flora’s relationship as soon-to-be-siblings is very realistic, with scrapping, teasing and hiding/growing affection. I wholeheartedly recommend this series, however old you are—it will make you think differently about the world.

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