If Lemony Snicket penned a story on twins it might be similar to this debut novel about the intriguing relationship between Arabella and Henrietta.
Nobody can understand why the identical, white twin girls seem different, but the trouble begins at birth, when Arabella arrives more beautiful than Henrietta. And nobody notices that because of this difference, they favor Arabella and slight Henrietta with increasing cruelty. After years of mistreatment and neglect, Henrietta, as many jealous siblings have been wont to do, uses her mother’s scissors to cut off Arabella’s bangs. In a now oft-used metafictive style, a mother (whose identity readers discover later) narrates this tale to her daughter, whose questions interrupt the gothic humor and pithy commentary to expound on details and vocabulary. The real story focuses on the consequences of Henrietta’s actions on both twins. Ever the scorned sibling, Henrietta is sent to live with her reclusive great-aunt, Priscilla, who dresses completely in black and requires her new guest to make fish-head soup. Once separated from Arabella, however, Henrietta begins to learn resiliency in unexpected ways—and likewise, Arabella learns a few lessons about empathy on her own. Black-and-white illustrations, reminiscent of Sophie Blackall and even Edward Gorey, enhance the mood and humor.
Even readers without twins will identify with the universal truths of being a sibling. (Fiction. 8-12)