Diane Prather: New Judy Blume book showcases sibling relationships

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You probably never could convince young siblings that they'll grow up to be good friends.

That goes double for brothers and sisters.

Take Abigail and Jacob, "Jake," for example. They're the characters in this week's chapter book for young readers.

"Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One" was written by award-winning author Judy Blume and illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson.

As the book begins, the reader learns about Abigail from her first-grade brother, Jake. He calls his sister "the Great One" because she thinks she's so great. Jake doesn't think that should make her smarter, faster or stronger than he is.

Furthermore, Jake just doesn't understand why Mom and Dad act like she's so special. Sometimes he thinks they love her more than him.

Then it's Abigail's turn - she has a name for her brother, too. He's "the Pain." Abigail believes that even if Jake lives to be 100, he'll still be a pain to her. She'll be two years older and will still know more than he does.

Abigail thinks Mom and Dad act like Jake is special.

Sometimes, Abigail thinks they love him more than her.

There are twelve chapters in this little book. Abigail narrates some; Jake, others. Even Fluzzy the cat gets his say.

In Chapter 3, it's May, and Abigail and Jake are running errands with Dad. The first stop is the shoe store. After one look at Jake, the salesman announces that they have a special half-price sale on snow boots. That's after the salesman notices Jake is wearing earmuffs. It turns out there's a reason for the earmuffs, logical or not. The sign in the barber shop window reads, "Mr. Soupy Gets the Job Done." The barbershop is the next stop of the day.

Abigail says Jake used to get his hair cut, but now he's scared. She thinks something must have happened, but Jake isn't talking.

When it's his turn, Jake gets up in the barber chair, but he doesn't take the earmuffs off (The illustration is quite humorous).

Jake has some conditions to getting his hair cut. Mr. Soupy can cut the front. He can even cut the back, but there's to be no cutting around the ears.

When Mr. Soupy raises the scissors, Jake lets out a loud wail. Mr. Soupy does not get the job done today. Three weeks later, when Jake's hair is hanging down in his face, Abigail comes up with a plan.

There are chapters about "the Great One" not knowing how ride a bicycle, Abigail's half-birthday party, babysitting Olive the dog and more. It's Judy Blume at her best.

In the end, Fluzzy gets the last say.

The author has written 25 books for young people.

Her awards include one from the National Book Foundation. Stevenson has written and illustrated more than one hundred books for children and published more than two thousand cartoons and covers.

This week's book is published by Delacorte Press, 2007.

ISBN 978-0-385-73305-2

Happy holidays, everyone!

Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.

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