A glimpse at sibling love in a book for newly independent readers, the third Annie and Simon book.
It’s rare to see teenagers depicted in books for young readers, but O’Neill’s series fills this void with its depiction of little sister Annie and her “big, big brother,” Simon, both of whom are white. The three slice-of-life stories that make up the book are focused on their interactions, with Simon acting as both a caregiver and companion. Their dynamic isn’t totally smooth, which keeps it feeling realistic and not nearly as sweet as the chocolate chips that Annie sneaks into the titular banana muffins they bake. They also show camaraderie and cooperation when caring for their neighbor’s baby, Theo (illustrations depict him and his father as black), and when rescuing their dog from a close call with a porcupine. These are quiet stories, with gentle humor infused in the dialogue and muted watercolor illustrations that overemphasize Simon’s gangly frame. The vocabulary and length of the text will place it out of reach for emergent readers in need of more robust verbal controls. Readers on the precipice of transitioning to chapter books will find this good preparation.
Welcome back, Annie and Simon. (Early reader. 7-9)