Brother’s Day

May 24 is Brother’s Day, a day to celebrate brothers in your life.  This week, 4 Mothers and guest Meg Gardner will be posting interviews with our sons about their brothers.

In the mean time, if you are looking for some ways to mark Brother’s Day, here are some new and classic children’s books about brothers:

imgres-2Andrew Larsen has a fabulous new picture book out called In the Tree House, and it is beautifully illustrated by Dušan Petričić.  It’s the perfect book to read for Brother’s Day because it touches on the inevitable moment in brothers’ lives when one brother migrates more towards his friends than his little bro.  This book tells about that separation, and about how the brothers reunite in their tree house one dark night.  My boys (5 and 7) love this book, and they were fully entranced both by the story and by the illustrations.  (In one image, the brothers are playing War, and the boys always examine the illustration to see which brother has the best cards and is likely to win.)

imgres-3Speaking of War, a classic book with a wonderful brother-sister pair is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.  Claudia and her brother Jamie run away from home on the funds Jamie has made playing War and saving his allowance.  Claudia has other siblings she could have asked along on her escape from her parents’ ingratitude, but this one is rich and she is nothing if not practical.  They camp out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, solve a mystery about a sculpture there, and befriend the anonymous and prickly donor.  It is a fabulous urban version of a desert island tale, and the kids navigate survival in the civilized centre of the urban jungle.  I have to say that, while I remember this book fondly from childhood, when I read it aloud to my 7-year-old recently, my fascination was with Claudia’s grammar.  She knows that it’s wrong to have dangling prepositions and corrects her brother when dangles them.  I’m not sure most high school university graduates could tell you that today. O tempora!  O mores!

Other books you might try:

The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald (this is how I found out about the holiday)

Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter series

The Sam and Stella books by Marie Louise Gay

The Weasley bothers in the Harry Potter books.

The Hardy Boys series written under the collective pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.

Siblings: You’re Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together by James Crist

Can you suggest your favourites?


Happy Welcome Home, Martin Frobisher Day!

I have a confession to make.  After reading it your opinion of me may drastically change.  Most likely you will shake your head, tsk tsk and wonder how a person can make it through to adulthood and not have an understanding of such elementary cultural celebrations.

My kindergartener son came home from school last week and was bubbling with excitement as he produce from his monogrammed red back pack various crafts and colourings featuring turkeys, cornucopias, and harmonious nuclear families sitting down to feast.  As we sifted through the artwork (destined for the “artwork bin”) he babbled on about Thanksgiving with the same excitement most people have for Christmas (I realize that this is coming).  When his younger brother came home from pre-school he was sporting a construction paper crown that vaguely resembled a turkey – if turkeys had googley eyes and neon yellow and purple feathers.   Naturally this caused a ruckus.  While my oldest was smitten with his own handiwork minutes earlier he desperately coveted the Turkey Crown that his brother was parading around.  His brother was having no part in sharing and made this abundantly clear while announcing to us “My schurckey hat is just for yooking!  No touching!”

Once order was restored with the help of bribery a good heart-to-heart discussion, my boys asked me if I knew what Thanksgiving was.  I chuckled.  Patted their innocent little heads.

“Of course I do, sweeties.”

Okay dear readers, if you know your Canadian history and you are still with me, this is when the headshaking and eyeball rolling will commence.

Obviously it is impossible to celebrate 30 Thanksgiving feasts and not know what it is all about.  It’s when the pilgrims and the natives buried the hatchet and sat down for some turkey, cranberry sauce and corn.  The natives shared their crop so that the land-stealers (err, I mean pilgrims) wouldn’t starve to death.  It is the classic example of putting aside grudges and sharing with others.

Before I shared my cornucopia of knowledge (pun intended), I decided to do a quick cross-reference of my facts.  I figure that the many hours I spent watching American television as a child may not constitute historical accuracy.

Well it is a good thing that I did! Apparently the Seavers and the Huxtables had led me astray.  Blasted American sit-coms!

According to the people at Wikipedia, Canadian Thanksgiving was long celebrated by the First Nations people as a way to give thanks for the bountiful harvest well before any Erikkson, Johnson or Champlain erected a four-bedroom, two-car garage suburban home.  However, when the European settlers did celebrate their first Thanksgiving it was to give thanks that explorer Martin Frobisher had successfully returned home after searching for the Northwest Passage.

It is important to note that the first European Thanksgiving on Canadian soil was to celebrate that Frobisher had returned home.  He had not found the Northwest Passage but he didn’t die a lonely, icy death like Henry Hudson and John Franklin.

So you see Canadian readers, our first Thanksgiving wasn’t about thanking the First Nations people for sharing their bountiful crops with the settlers (and therefore staving off scurvy) or about celebrating a significant geographical find.  In true Canadian form, in was about good manners: hosting an appropriate homecoming for a long-lost traveler.

As we sit down for our harvest feast and give thanks for bountiful crops we have access to, what are you particularly grateful for this year?

I have to admit that I am thankful that the “when in Rome” adage prevailed in Canada because “Happy Thanksgiving” has a much better ring to it than “Happy Welcome Home Martin Frobisher Day”.  Besides which, teachers would have been stymied trying to come up with creative art projects.

P.S.  Don’t feel too badly for Mr. Frobisher.  He has an inlet named for him in the Arctic Ocean and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.  Not too shabby for failing to find the Northwest Passage.

photo credit: