My Sis­ter Is Sleeping

Devo­ra Bush­eri, Michel Kich­ka, (illus.), Shi­ra Atik (trans.)

  • Review
By – June 29, 2020

Most par­ents are aware of the cat­e­go­ry of books ded­i­cat­ed to prepar­ing old­er chil­dren for a new baby. Many focus on poten­tial feel­ings of dis­ap­point­ment and exclu­sion as the younger sib­ling seems to take over the time and atten­tion of care­givers. My Sis­ter Is Sleep­ing takes a dif­fer­ent approach, pre­sent­ing a lit­tle girl so absorbed in her art­work that the arrival of a sis­ter has no neg­a­tive effect on her hap­py moments of draw­ing. The book also teach­es Hebrew words in an unob­tru­sive way sug­gest­ing that bilin­gual­ism is a nat­ur­al state and a won­der­ful way to express love. Young read­ers will relate to the fact that the girl’s iden­ti­ty as an artist is not com­pro­mised, but rather enhanced, by the addi­tion to her family.

The text is gen­tle and poet­ic. Sen­tences in Eng­lish include Hebrew words high­light­ed in light red font, bring­ing them to read­ers’ atten­tion with­out dis­rupt­ing the flu­en­cy of the sto­ry: My lit­tle sis­ter, achoti, is sleep­ing.” Busheri’s use of metaphor is con­sis­tent with a child’s per­cep­tion of the world, where lips are straw­ber­ries, tootim,” and a baby’s del­i­cate eye­lash­es are tiny feath­ers.” The girl is total­ly engaged in draw­ing pic­tures but also aware of the par­al­lel events sur­round­ing her as she helps care for the baby and watch­es her while she sleeps. Bush­eri sub­tly assures chil­dren that wel­com­ing a new sib­ling allows them to show growth and maturity.

Kichka’s por­traits of the young artist, a red­head with over­sized glass­es, are both play­ful and touch­ing. She alters pro­por­tions, with some pic­tures reflect­ing a child’s per­spec­tive on her envi­ron­ment. Draw­ing at the kitchen table, the girl holds a pen­cil as long as her arm and pro­duces a smil­ing face with a straw­ber­ry at its cen­ter, too large to be con­tained by the table. Set­tings are slant­ed, some­times viewed from above, and full-col­or alter­nates with fig­ures drawn in shades of grey. The young artist does not sep­a­rate her cre­ative role from her nur­tur­ing one. In one scene, she busi­ly draws under a table, a large pot and spoon at her side, while her baby sis­ter appears in the door­way sleep­ing in her crib. Adults will find humor in the jux­ta­po­si­tion of pen­cil and cook­ing uten­sils: Mom­my will give me a bowl and spoon, k’arah v’kapit, and I will feed her oatmeal.”

The book’s words and pic­tures com­ple­ment one anoth­er, as sim­ple, brief state­ments accom­pa­ny appeal­ing­ly messy set­tings. A bal­cony has a clut­ter of green plants and clothes hang­ing to dry; the girls’ room is a clut­ter of toys, open draw­ers, and brush­es. A col­lec­tion of stuffed ani­mals, falling out of the baby’s crib, observes the artist at work, paint­ing while her sis­ter sleeps.

In this high­ly rec­om­mend­ed sto­ry, Bush­eri and Kich­ka have envi­sioned the arrival of a baby through the eyes of an old­er child, one whose imag­i­na­tion makes her open to change.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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