We have been putting in a lot of pool time lately, but we’ve also been spending a boatload of time indoors–staying cool in the comfort of our ac, eating popsicles and ices, playing games, Wii, and reading.
Even though Maddy, Owen, and Cora often play well together, a ton of at-home time also opens up opportunities for bickering, arguments, and fighting.
So when I saw Kevin Henkes’ book, Julius: The Baby of the World, with a cover illustration of Lilly making a scary face at the baby in the bassinet, I thought it may open up some good, old-fashioned conversation about sibling relationships and allow us to do some questioning and connecting.
It was perfect.
Not that Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s relationship is now perfectly perfect–it’s not, and please don’t get me wrong. But it was a worthwhile conversation and some meaningful connecting during the read-aloud.
Here’s the skinny:
- Making Connections & Questioning (With Siblings!): Julius: The Baby of the World focuses on Lilly, (yes! Lilly of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse!) and her feelings toward her new baby brother, Julius. Before Julius is born, she loves him with her whole heart. But after Julius arrives, she is nasty, unkind, and hateful towards him. Her parents try everything they can to change her feelings–from punishing her to showering her with love and attention–but nothing works. Nothing works until Cousin Garland is unkind to Julius; then Lilly becomes his biggest fan and most fierce protector.
We sat down with a pile of new library books, and Cora chose Julius–. No one had ever read the book before, so I started with some simple–quick!–questions:
- What is going on in the cover illustration?
- Why would a little girl do something like that to a new baby?
- How do you think the baby feels?
- How do you think the mommy and daddy feel?
Then we started reading. And the minute I read: After Julius was born, it was a different story. Lilly took her things back. She pinched his tail and she yelled insulting comments into his crib, I stopped.
My kids looooove to hear about times when kids are naughty or misbehaving. So they were hooked from page two of this book.
Maddy, Owen, and Cora were silent. They knew that Lilly’s behavior was inappropriate, unkind, and nasty. And like many kiddos, my kids love to read or hear about naughty kids.
I said, OH. MY. GOSH. I cannot believe this. I have never seen Lilly act so unkindly, and I’m totally confused. Why would her behavior have changed so quickly? I asked:
- How do you think she feels?
- When have you felt the same way that Lilly feels–jealous, confused, upset?
- How do you think baby Julius feels?
- Can you think of a time when someone else was unkind toward you?
- What did you do?
We read on and talked about these same topics, briefly, and now and again, I’d ask:
- Lilly is being so rude toward Julius. What would Daddy or I do if you acted this way towards each other?
- What do you think Lilly’s mom and dad should do?
- What else could Lilly do instead of [banging on instruments; scaring Julius; telling a nasty story]?
The kids were really into this story, so I tried not to stop too often or for too long. They were totally curious about how this was possibly going to end. And honestly, so was I.
Lilly changes her attitude towards Julius. . . and we were so happy!
Finally, towards the end, when Lilly’s feelings turn from anger towards Julius to anger towards Cousin Garland, Maddy, Owen, and Cora were sitting with eyes wide open. As soon as I read, ‘Lilly’s nose twitched. Her eyes narrowed. Her fur stood on end. And her tail quivered’ I asked:
- You are all siting here with your mouths open. What’s on your mind?
- Why did Lilly change her feelings toward Julius?
- Have you ever felt protective towards a friend or each other?
- Why is it super important for us to stand up for each other and for our friends?
- What do you think will happen now? How will Lilly and Julius’s relationship change?
And on the last page, when Lilly makes Cousin Garland scream, ‘JULIUS IS THE BABY OF THE WORLD!‘, we were all smiling. Big.
I didn’t make a big deal about how much better we feel when we’re kind toward each other, when brothers and sisters and friends are loving and kind toward each other. All I said was, I feel so much better looking at this last illustration of Lilly and Julius than I felt when I saw this cover picture.
And everyone agreed.
Super book, Kevin Henkes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And that was our super-sneaky summer learning for today. . . here’s to hoping this heat breaks and that we can get back outside, play a little with our buddies, and have some outdoor fun.
Welcome to Week 5 of our Smart Summer Challenge! You have ALL week–until late Thursday, July 28, 2011, to link up your ideas to win last week’s prize. SO worth it–so take a second and share your ideas for a chance to win BIG from LeapFrog!
We’re now only one week away from our HUGE giveaways which I cannot wait to share. Please check out the skinny on our Smart Summer Challenge, the 6-week fun summer learning campaign I’m running with Candace and MaryLea, where we’re challenging all parents to do what they can to throw in a little bit of fun learning every day (or as often as they can!). And seriously–summer reading counts!! So link up your ideas through the whole week and win prizes. That’s how much we love our readers and value summertime learning!