Siblings, and more specifically sisters, have a unique relationship. You spend a good deal of your life trying to distance yourself from them, but one day realize that the person you need the most in your life is that self-same sibling you have been trying to avoid. All the years of arguments, lack of privacy, and shared family trauma mellow with time and form the basis or an unbreakable bond.
Or at least that is what it is like when you look back on it as an adult.
When you are a kid, you can’t get past the annoyance that is having someone around you all the time, especially when it is expected that you always have to be “nice” to that person.
Raina Telgemeir had a similar experience growing up with her sister, Amara and chronicles one particularly difficult episode in her latest book, Sisters. Jumping between a family road trip to visit cousins in California, and vignettes showing the relationship between Raina and Amara throughout the years, Sisters is part travelogue and part family drama. Each sister places expectations on the other that are either unspoken or unrealistic (or both) which deepens a divide which neither one wanted, but are both seemingly helpless to repair. This divide mirrors a greater divide in the family which both girls are just becoming aware of.
Both girls are deeply invested in their own worlds, their own desires, and their own dreams and find it difficult to share them with each other. For Raina, it is the desire for solitude and peace and quiet (something in short supply in a crowded house with three children). Amara loves to draw but wants to do it on her own terms. The fact that her skills rapidly outpace her older sister’s does nothing to help Raina like her more. Since they are trapped for weeks together on this trip, tensions boil to the surface and things get downright ugly.
That ugliness is ironic given Telgemeir’s light and fun art style. Her characters perpetually seem poised to sing or dance, and the colors of the book contribute to the exterior happiness which belies deep frustration and resentment.
As is always the case with Telgemeir’s books, Sisters is a fast read, taking no more than an hour for most middle readers to devour it. But, as with the rest of Telgemeir’s books, Sisters is eminently re-readable. There is no great mystery to be solved. There is no “will they or won’t they???” romance to be requited. This is a good old-fashioned road trip where the adventures along the way are just as important (if not more so) as the destination itself. Because of that, kids can pore over scenes in the book time and again, reveling in the dialogue, scanning the art, or imagining what they would have said in the same situation (or remembering what they did say when something similar happened to them!).
Telgemeir’s books are in heavy circulation at our school library and are perennial best sellers when the book fair comes around. Sisters should continue both those traditions, so be sure to pick up a copy for you, or your kids. Or, better yet, pick up two copies so you don’t have to share with your annoying sibling!
Check out a seven page preview here.