Now that my son Ray is coming up on six-and-a-half, his imaginative world is as vigorous as ever. The other day I must have called his name from the kitchen about fifty times before he actually heard me. Not because he was all that far away, but because he was immersed in some fantasy situation involving Lego figures and a heavy blanket. When he emerged at the top of the stairs, he was red in the face and his skin was a sheen of perspiration.
“I didn’t hear you,” he said.
“It’s all right,” I replied. “But maybe now that it’s June we should switch out the down comforter for something a little cooler to play beneath.”
The Wildest Brother, while most certainly a book about the relationship between siblings, is also about the inner life of little kids, and it’s a thrill of a read for elementary age kids. Some days Ben is a knight and other days he’s a wolf. He paints scars on his face with his older sister’s make-up in order to masquerade as a monster (and you should see the look on her face in that illustration). Ben also protects his sister against man-eating-monsters since, “after all, he’s lionhearted and elephant-strong.”
There are all sorts of imaginary battles to fight in this book — battles against three “moldy green ghosts” and “slime-burping monsters” and burglars and foxes and wolves. Sometimes Ben irritates his sister and other times she finds him amusing. The last page of the book is great, too.
But in the evening
presses her soot-black face
against the window
and the heating creaks
like the sound of a thousand biting beetles,
Ben crawls into Anna’s bed.
Then she protects him —
from Night’s soot-black face
and the biting beetles.
And it is sooo wonderful
to have a big, strong sister.
Cornelia Funke is a German writer and this book is an English language translation. You can sort of tell. The last two lines are almost too naive to sound like something that would come from an American. But aren’t they delightful? The illustrations, by Kerstin Meyer, are captivating, too. ABZ