Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories
Written by Catharine O’Neill
Little Annie and her older brother, Simon, return in a precious story about healthy and happy, sibling relationships. Readers first met the sister brother duo in Annie and Simon, by Catharine O’Neill, released in 2008.
In this first grade chapter book, Annie, Simon, and their dog, Hazel, have four adventures. In “Living Things,” Annie draws wildlife pictures while at a lake, though Simon sometimes struggles to recognize the subject of each of his much-younger sister’s artwork. When Simon sneezes in chapter two, Annie is convinced he is ill and wants to nurse him back to health with a story, a duck blanket, a violet hankie, and gummy bears. Once Simon is settled on the couch, Annie snuggles sweetly with him under the blanket, and he reads the story to her. The family dog, Hazel, is the subject of chapter three. Annie draws pictures of her dog until the Gray Cat Next Door wanders into the yard. Annie then decides a cat might make a better pet. When Gray Cat catches a mouse, Annie remembers how much she adores Hazel. And, finally, in “Horse Chestnuts,” Annie and Simon collect a wagonload of horse chestnuts, only to have them stolen and buried by a squirrel.
The chapter ends with Simon kissing Annie on the top of her head. He announces, “You know, you’re my favorite little sister.”
To which she smiles and says, “I know.”
Adults will want children to read this delightful book to counteract the many stories available on sibling rivalry. O’Neill writes about siblings who have a harmonious relationship, with no jealousy, bitterness, fighting or arguing, prejudices, or favoritism. This book would benefit children who have a difficult home life or a broken home in which they’ve possibly been removed from a beloved sibling or step-sibling. This story could also help children learn to appreciate an older or younger sibling and look for the positives in that relationship. Only-children in a family could get a glimpse into the life of two or more children families. And, this story would make a great read aloud for a three- to five-year-old child whose mom is expecting a new baby.
To amplify the theme of the story, a teacher could incorporate this reading activity: Use a bulletin board to show each child’s family tree. The child can write on strips of green paper cut in the shapes of leaves the names of each family member and the relationship and attach it to a construction paper cut-out of a leafless tree with branches.
Then periodically have children take turns standing near their tree and share something about one of their siblings, like a fun activity the two kids took part in together, what they like best about that sibling, or an accomplishment of the sibling. (For children without siblings, have them add cousins to their family tree.)
Allow and encourage the sharing time to create pride in the sibling relationship or an appreciation of the family member. This kind of activity also helps classmates learn about other families and family members, thus bonding the classmates, creating a “family-type” relationship within the classroom.