Sisters by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix, 2014.
Telgemeier tells the story of her relationship with her sister. It’s set within a frame of her mother taking the three children – Raina, Amara, and their little brother – on a week-long drive from California to a family reunion in Colorado. (As a mother, I can think of about a million things I would rather do than take three kids on a camping road trip with only one adult – but this will probably not occur to kids.) In between, we see little Raina asking Santa for a baby sister, quickly followed by Raina getting bored and then annoyed with the sister with whom she has to share a room. The birth of their brother doesn’t improve things. At the family reunion, though, both girls see things that make them reassess their relationship: cousins not wanting to play, their mother still fighting with her own siblings, and worst of all, signs of their parents’ marriage failing.
The part of the story where the sisters are trying to get along, while touching, is very small. Mostly, I think what younger readers will take away is the very realistic portrayal of the arguments between siblings. Even though Telgemeier is chronicling her grievances, it’s easy to see how she’s just as annoying to Amara. It brought up a bunch of memories of arguments past with my own little sister, and kids will find the stories even more sympathetic. They are also a whole lot funnier when looked at from the outside.
As always, Telgemeier’s art is essential to the story. Her characters are expressive and easy to follow, with just the right level of detail to set the scene clearly without bogging things down. It’s mostly told in straightforward panel sequences, with the occasional full-page picture. The one that sticks out the most in my memory is the diagram of van set-up for their car trip, with each kid’s zones and key items mapped out. The pictures are so appealing that I’ve yet to see a kid of any age pick this up without wanting to read it. This is perfect realistic graphic storytelling – great for kids, teens and adults.