My Sister Gracie is a picture book written and illustrated by Gillian Johnson (originally published in 2005). The book is ostensibly about a lonely dog but, as is the case with any good book (picture or otherwise) it’s also about a lot more.
The story starts with Fabio. Fabio has a pretty good life for a dog. Loving family, friends, and lots of toys. But Fabio wants more. To be precise, he wants a brother to play with and share his fun with. As Fabio languishes in the house, his family agrees that Fabio needs a companion. But things don’t go quite as planned.
Instead of the mini-Fabio he was hoping for, Fabio’s family brings home Gracie–Fabio’s new sister! Gracie came from the pound. She’s old, tired, shy (and a little weird looking). Nothing like the sprightly companion Fabio had in mind. Certainly not an appropriate addition to his family. Too bad Fabio is the only one who thinks so.
Things only get worse when Fabio and Gracie travel the neighborhood and meet some of Fabio’s friends. At least until Fabio realizes that not being able to pick your family doesn’t make them any less important.
More perceptive readers than me may have already picked up on the fact that this book would be good for young children expecting a new sibling in the near future. (I only realized that after reading the blurb.) Johnson uses Gracie’s arrival to show that new pets (and babies) aren’t very exciting playmates and that they need a lot of tender loving care. The book also shows that adopting dogs from a pound or shelter is a commitment. I haven’t fully worked out how yet, but I think this book could also work for children who want to get a new pet–but that might be for slightly older children since it’s a pretty abstract concept in relation to the crux of the book.
I love the illustrations for this book. I cannot, unfortunately, say what medium Johnson works in as I cannot find that information anywhere online but they look like pencil and ink to me. These drawings are cartoons in the best sense of the word. Fabio is a miniature poodle with what can only be described as a mohawk. And Gracie, well, Gracie is awesome (as is immediately apparent from the picture of her on the cover). Johnson’s illustrations, while simple, are rich with motion. You can almost see Gracie waddling along down the street beside Fabio’s staccato steps.
As if all of that isn’t cool enough, this book is also written in verse–rhyming verse. I’ve heard lots of different opinions on rhyming in poetry and picture books. Personally, I say if it works, it works. The rhyming works in My Sister Gracie adding a lot of rhythm and snap to this cute picture book.
Amazon.com recommends this book for children ages three to five. I think the age might even extend slightly higher if a grown up wanted to talk about the “sibling angle” or the rhyme scheme found in the writing.