My Sister is an alien is that rare thing – a children’s picture book that manages to be irresistibly sweet without being cloying. The story is about a young boy called Alfie, who has a new baby sister that, in a Chinese-whispers case of child-ears picking up and misunderstanding pieces of grown-up conversation, he realises may actually be an alien…
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My Sister is an Alien by Rachel Bright
Perfectly capturing the loving confusion Alfie feels about this strange new addition to the family, My Sister is an Alien also shows the strong bond between the siblings. This isn’t a story about sibling rivalry, as brother and sister clearly get on well. Alfie loves his new little sister, Ruby. But, like many very young children with new siblings, he doesn’t understand really where she came from or even what she is.
At the start of the story, Alfie has three favourite things – aliens, rockets and the moon. Aliens are at the top of his list, and his love of all things space is obvious in the contents of his delightfully messy room. On second readings, this spread foreshadows much of the story, and my children love to spot the different things that pop up later on.
Alfie’s parents talk a lot about his little sister, Ruby, but Alfie is more interested in playing, watching tv and drawing, and listens with only half an ear. And so when his mother, for example says ‘Isn’t she lovely? Mummy and Daddy are over the moon!’, all Alfie hears is ‘moon’
And when all he catches from his father’s comment ‘we need to make more space’ is the word ‘space’, Alfie soon puts two and two together. His sister is ‘an… alien… from… the… moon!’
All the evidence supports his theory – little Ruby looks, sounds and even smells like an alien. And while aliens might be his favourite things, Alfie assumes that Ruby’s tears are a sign of homesickness – for the moon.
A world of pure imagination…
At this point, the book moves away from the real world and into one of make-believe. Alfie prepares his rocket and set off with Ruby on a journey into space, to take her back to the moon.
But another subtle change has also taken place. Up to this point, Ruby has been a background character to Alfie’s play. In every scene, she has been fast asleep either in her cot or cradled in their mother’s arms.
Yet when Alfie examines his sister for proof that she’s an alien, Ruby is now wide awake and just as interested in her brother as he is (now) in her.
Together the two children take a journey of imagination, meeting friendly aliens and playing all night long. Playmates for the first time, this brother and sister have fun together until finally, it is time for Alfie to leave.
The sudden sadness Alfie feels at leaving Ruby behind is mirrored in the way she clings to the rocket, gazing mournfully up at Alfie. Alfie asks Ruby to come back to earth with him. Ruby (who is, after all, still a baby), replies ‘goo!’.
Taking that as a yes, the two children head happily home. That night they snuggle up together, and Ruby takes top place on Alfie’s list of favourite things.
This is a wonderfully sweet story about a big brother discovering what having a little sister can really mean. It provides a great contrast with books like Lauren Child’s The New Small Person (another book on our list of top picture books staring BAME boys), where the sibling relationship starts out nowhere near as harmoniously. And it is lovely to find a book that quietly celebrates gentleness in boys. I can’t help but feel a little lump in my throat at Alfie’s careful arm around his baby sister, as they cuddle together in his bed.
Rachel Bright’s trademark gorgeous illustrations are created using a mixture of etching and painting. This gives the pictures a wonderfully organic feel. You can read more about her technique in this interview with Little Parachutes. And you can find out more about Rachel Bright on her website: rachelbrightbooks.co.uk.
Buy the book
My Sister is an Alien seems to be currently out of print, however you can still get copies from Amazon here.
By the same author:
by Rachel Bright
by Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Picture Books with Diverse Characters
Have you seen my full list of the best 23 picture books with diverse characters? Just like My Sister is an Alien, all of these picture books feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boys as main characters. Something that’s as rare as proverbial hen’s teeth in children’s books, and a problem I’ve written about here.
Check out the list to find out more about our favourites, and take a peek inside. If you like the look of this book, I’m sure you’ll find some others to love there too!
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