By Betsy Byers
Illustrated by Marc Simont
Betsy Byers won the Newbery Medal in 1971 for her novel Summer of the Swans. She wrote her first book in 1961 and has published books consistently since. Her writing for My Brother, Ant is funny and sweet with very natural dialogue. Byers is able to be repetitive—giving children the opportunity to practice reading these words—without being boring or didactic. The longer text and slightly more complex words place this book at the more advanced end of the beginning reader spectrum.
In 1950 Marc Simont received the Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in The Happy Day, written by the highly influential Ruth Krauss. He was awarded the Caldecott Medal for A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry, in 1957. He also illustrated many of the perennially popular Nate the Great books. I reviewed The Philharmonic Gets Dressed here, which he also illustrated. His art in this book is wonderfully expressive and relaxed.
Ant, short for Anthony, is the younger brother of our narrator, who is not named. “The Monster Under Ant’s Bed” is the first of four stories, or chapters, in the book. Ant can’t sleep, he’s sure there’s a monster under his bed. Dad calls out from the living room that there is no monster, but Ant wants to know how dad can be so sure without even checking. Big brother to the rescue!
He looks under the bed, has a conversation with the monster and convinces him to move along. It’s all settled—Ant and his brother can go to sleep.
In “Ant and the Spider” big brother is very upset to discover a spider drawn on his homework. Ant insists he did not draw a spider on his brother’s homework and mom insists that Ant does not lie. Big brother knows Ant did it and stomps off to his room. Ant follows quickly behind explaining that he did not draw a spider on his brother’s homework.
He drew an upside down dog.
Big brother tries to read Ant a story in “Ant and the Three Little Figs.”
“No! That is not right. It’s pigs. Three little PIGS. Say PIGS.”
When his brother finally agrees to say pigs, Ant goes outside to play. His brother asks why. Ant replies, “I don’t like the rest of the story. It has a big bad wolf in it.”
“Love Ant” is one of my favorite pieces in any book ever. Though it’s July, Ant asks his brother to help with a letter to Santa.
Though his brother explains that you write letters to Santa in December, to ask for presents, Ant insists, “Just write the words.”
My Brother, Ant is a superb book for a confident beginning reader as well as a warm expression of a brotherly relationship—love, annoyance, and acceptance included.
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