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Recommended Reading
For Siblings

Books for Children from 4 to 8

We'll Paint the Octupus Red
by Stephanie Stuve-Boden, Illustrated by Pam DeVito
Hardcover, Published by Woodbine House, Publication date: August 1998

Six year old Emma isn't very happy about the idea of having a new brother or sister but when Emma and her dad start thinking of all the things that they can do with the new baby, Emma becomes excited at the prospect of being a big sister. When her dad comes home and tells Emma that her new brother, Isaac, has Down syndrome, Emma worries that he won't be able to do any of the fun things that she has imagined. As Emma and her dad think back over all the things they wanted to do with the new baby, they realize together that as long as they are patient and helped him when he needed it, there wasn't anything he couldn't do. This is a reassuring story for young children bewildered by Down syndrome and what it means for their relationship with their new sibling. This is truly a wonderful story. Your child will ask you why you are crying after you read it to them. Of all the books for this age group, this book is by far the best.

The Best Worst Brother
Written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Illustrated by Charlotte Fremaux
Woodbine House

In this sequel to the popular storybook We’ll Paint the Octopus Red, Isaac is almost three years old and Emma is in elementary school. Emma misses the adoring baby brother Isaac used to be. Now that he’s older, he’s a pain.

Emma used to be able to make Isaac laugh. He used to let her hold him without squirming. But no more. Now Isaac spits out his food and knocks down her blocks when Emma tries to play with him. Sometimes his behavior is downright embarrassing. Emma thinks Isaac would be more fun if he’d hurry up and learn some of the sign language she and her mom are trying to teach him. His slower pace is maddening at times!

The Best Worst Brother is an endearing and realistic look at how a relationship evolves between a typically developing older sister and her younger brother with a developmental disability. It also shows how sign language can help a child that acquires speech more slowly. As Emma is pleased to discover, Isaac can learn to sign, he just learns when he’s ready.

Kids and families who loved Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen’s earlier book with the same characters will want this one too. For those who recognize aspects of their own family in the story, it will be comforting to read about this “warts and all” sibling relationship. Charlotte Fremaux’s realistic illustrations are deft and colorful, appealing to a slightly older audience than the previous book’s. Text and illustrations mesh beautifully, making The Best Worst Brother a delightful tale to read at home or share at school.

I Can, Can You? (Board book)
Written and Photographed by Marjorie W. Pitzer, M.Ed.
Woodbine House

Babies and toddlers with Down syndrome, like all young children, want to discover their world and take on new experiences. I CAN, CAN YOU? is a delightful board book full of babies and toddlers with Down syndrome going about the business of their lives. Presented in crisp, uncluttered, full-color photographs, these children swim, eat spaghetti, laugh, play ball, and more…looking adorable all the while!

I CAN, CAN YOU? is the perfect book for parents and children to enjoy together. As your child sits on your lap and you read to him, he'll see other children with Down syndrome modeling some things he can do and some which he will soon do. Reinforce your child's abilities ("Look at the boy going down the slide. You can do that!") and encourage the possibilities ("Do you see the girl drawing a picture?"). What's more, as you read to your child and as he plays with the book and turns the pages, he will gain important pre-reading skills.

This wonderful book will be reassuring to families with a new baby with Down syndrome and makes a great gift. Daycare centers, hospitals, infant-toddler programs, libraries, pediatric practices, and support groups will want to have I CAN, CAN YOU? available for the families they serve.

My Friend Isabelle
by Eliza Woloson, Bryan Gough (Illustrator)
Children's Hardcover (October 2003)

Isabelle and Charlie are friends. They both like to draw, dance, read, and play at the park. They both like to eat Cheerios. They both cry if their feelings are hurt. And like most friends, they are also different from each other. Isabelle has Down syndrome. Charlie doesn’t.

Written by Isabelle’s mother, this charming tale encourages readers to think about what makes a friendship special. My Friend Isabelle also opens the door for young children to talk about differences and the world around them. It’s a wonderful story to read at bedtime or to share at school. Lively full color illustrations dovetail beautifully with the text to bring the simple story to life.

What's Wrong with Timmy?
by Maria Shriver, Sandra Speidel (Illustrator)
Hardcover (November 2001) Reading Level: 4-8

All children ask questions that are difficult to answer. What is the best response when a child points out that a disabled child or adult looks "different?" How can a parent talk about differences while emphasizing the things all people have in common? In this book, remarkable for its sensitivity and generosity of spirit, Maria Shriver uses her storytelling art to provide some answers. She tells the story of eught-year-old Kate, who, while at the park with her mother, notices Timmy, a boy who looks and behaves differently from the other children she knows. Kate wonders if there is something "wrong" with Timmy, but when her mother introduces her to Timmy, the seeds of friendship are planted. Soon Kate and Timmy are laughing and playing together, and Kate learns that she and Timmy have a lot in common-that in fact, there's nothing "wrong" with Timmy at all.

About the Author
Maria Shriver, one of television's most respected anchorwomen, has long been involved with the disabled through her family's founding and continued support of the Special Olympics. She lives with her family in Santa Monica, California. Sandra Spiedel illustrated the best-selling book What's Heaven? She lives in Petaluma, California.

ABC For You and Me
by Meg Girnis, Shirley Green (Photographer)
Hardcover, 32 pages (April 2000)

This is a wonderful ABC book. Each letter has a full page photograph showing a child with Down syndrome in an activity with an object corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. The letter "D" for example, has a young boy with Down syndrome and a dog. The pictures are very colorful and clear. The children are beautiful models. This is a fun book and I highly recommend it. If only they made a hard board edition for little children...

1 2 3 For You and Me
by Margaret Girnis, Shirley Leamon Green (Photographer)
School & Library Binding - 32 pages (April 2001)

The creators of "ABC for You and Me," an ABC book featuring photos of children with Down syndrome, now offer this simple counting book. Beautiful children with Down syndrome, and their friends, admire "one" bird, play with "seven" ducklings, and zoom "eleven" cars. As the colorful objects gradually increase from one to twenty, readers will find much to hold their attention. Children with Down syndrome will enjoy seeing themselves reflected in this book intended for every preschool and kindergarten classroom.

Where's Chimpy?
by Berniece Rabe, Kathleen Tucker (Editor), and Diane Schmidt (Photographer)
Paperback, 32 pages Published by Albert Whitman & Company Publication date: December 1991

This is a story about Misty, a girl who is all ready for bed, but has lost her stuffed chimp. Her father helps her retrace the events of her day, but as they return together to the places she played, Misty finds many toys, but not Chimpy, until... A logical, well-thought-out story is enlivened by photos of Misty and her father. That Misty is a child with Down syndrome is of no importance to the plot, only explained in a preface and in the author's note at end. Readers will simply see a beaming child playing, bathing and sleeping, and Misty will endear herself to those engaged in her hunt for Chimpy.

Breanna Hanson writes: "The book of this month (January) is Where's Chimpy? I think that is just about one of the cutest books out there! When my little sister was born, she had Down Syndrome. I was 5 when she was born. She is now 10. I would read that book almost every day. I think everyone should read that book, the girl, Misty, is adorable! As all kids with Down Syndrome are I think!"

Russ and the Firehouse
by Janet Elizabeth Rickert, Pete McGahan (Photographer)
Hardcover, 24 pages, Published by Woodbine House, Publication date: May 2000

Russ, a five-year-old boy with Down syndrome, tags along with his Uncle Jerry, a fireman, during a day of work at a real firehouse..
Captured in detail with vivid color photographs, this story begins as Russ goes "on duty" for the day. He helps inspect the fire equipment-the ax, fire hydrant, flashlight, ladders, fire truck-to make sure that it's all working OK. He also discovers that a very important job at the firehouse is keeping the equipment clean, so Russ and Uncle Jerry start scrubbing and rinsing. Even Sparky the Dalmatian gets a sudsy bath. After they're finished everything in the firehouse is sparkling-except for Russ, who's just a little bit wet!

Our Brother Has Down's Syndrome
by Shelley Cairo, Jasmine Cairo, Tara Cairo, Irene McNeil
Paperback, Published by Firefly Books, Publication date: March 1988

A warm family story of Tara and Jasmine and their little brother Jai who has Down syndrome. The book features simple text with full color photos of Jai and his sisters as they go through their day.

Books for Children from 9 to 12

The Sibling Slam Book: What It’s Really Like to Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs
by Don Meyer (Editor)
Woodbine House

Give teenagers a chance to say what’s on their minds, and you might be surprised by what you hear. That’s exactly what Don Meyer, creator of Sibshops and author of VIEWS FROM OUR SHOES did when he invited together a group of 80 teenagers, from all over the United States and abroad, to talk about what it’s like to have a brother or sister with special needs. Their unedited words are found in THE SIBLING SLAM BOOK, a brutally honest, non-PC look at the lives, experiences, and opinions of siblings without disabilities.

Formatted like the slam books passed around in many junior high and high schools, this one poses a series of 50 personal questions along the lines of:

  • "What should we know about you?"
  • "What do you tell your friends about your sib’s disability?"
  • "What’s the weirdest question you have ever been asked about your sib?"
  • "If you could change one thing about your sib (or your sib’s disability) what would it be?"
  • "What annoys you most about how people treat your sib?"

THE SIBLING SLAM BOOK doesn’t "slam" in the traditional sense of the word. The tone and point-of-view of the answers are all over the map. Some answers are assuredly positive, a few are strikingly negative, but most reflect the complex and conflicted mix of emotions that come with the territory. Whether they read it cover to cover or sample it at random, teenagers will surely find common ground among these pages and reassurance that they are not alone. It is a book that parents, friends, and counselors can feel confident recommending to any teenager with a brother or sister with a disability.

My Brother, Matthew
by Mary Thompson
Hardcover, Published by Woodbine House, Publication date: September 1992

A book especially for siblings about the unique relationship between two brothers, the younger of who has a disability. Reassures siblings of their very important role in the family.

Views from Our Shoes : Growing Up With a Brother or Sister With Special Needs
by Donald J. Meyer (Editor), Cary Pillo (Illustrator)
Paperback, Published by Woodbine House, Publication date: September 1997

Forty-five siblings, ages four to eighteen, share their experiences as the brother or sister of a young person with a disability - the good and the bad aspects as well as many thoughtful observations.

This page last updated on Febraury 8, 2006.

Copyright © 1997-2006 Thomas and Michel Paul.