Anyone with a difficult-to-appreciate sibling will feel sorry for fifth-grader Masha, older sister of precocious, gifted Sunny Sweet.
Everywhere she turns, Masha is confronted by her inquisitive, brilliant, irrepressible first-grade sister. Everyone but rule-following Masha seems to find Sunny adorable and cute, even when she concocts a new adhesive and glues a bunch of plastic flowers to Masha’s head. This time, Masha knows Sunny has gone too far. But even that tonsorial disaster is not enough to take their mother’s doting attention away from the little genius. Unfortunately, this promising setup falls prey to numerous problems with believability. While readers might be able to understand that the jealous older sister might indulge in hyperbole to bolster her case, it’s hard to accept the over-the-top exaggeration in the plot. When the sisters end up in the hospital via a neighbor’s ambulance ride, the plot twists strain credulity. The nurses treat both girls without parental permission; Masha ends up getting a shot of a painkiller and being put in a cast when she is mistaken for another patient; the staff loses both girls and a patient with whooping cough. Both girls have cellphones, but they do not have their mother’s work number entered in. Secondary characters, like the oddly absent father, are left undeveloped, while Sunny threatens to take over.
This debut kicks off a series; here’s hoping the plots are more believable in the future. (Fiction. 7-11)