Fitting in and learning to love your little sister

One day when J was reading books on We Give Books, she came across the book Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan. This is a great story about sibling rivalry, immigrant culture and also about forgiveness.

As many kidlit bloggers have noted lately, there is not a wealth of multicultural books out there. That “despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content.”One blogger even started a group Pinterest page on Multicultural books for kids. We read this book before that became a trending topic and I knew that I liked the book for a wide variety of reasons, although one was definitely that it was nice to see a Pakistani family represented in such a charming manner, even if the mother is a bit clueless.


The story focuses on Rubina, a little girl who has been invited to her first American birthday party. Her mother, dressed in a shalwar kameez and hijab asks, “what is a birthday party?”

lollipop pageRubina’s little sister, Sana, screams that she wants to go too. Rubina’s mother, not understanding that this is totally uncool, tells her that she can’t go unless she takes her little sister. Rubina is forced to ask her friend if her sister can come and then feels out of place for having her at the party. To make matters worse, after the party the girls are given goody bags with a big red lollipop. Sana eats hers right away and Rubina puts hers into the refrigerator to save for the next day. However, when Rubina opens the fridge the next morning to get it, she finds only a small triangle left since Sana managed to get to it first.

Fast forward to a few years later and Sana is invited to her first party,  she is told that she has to bring their younger sister Maryam to the party, Rubina already asking to be left out of it. Rubina knows all that Sana is thinking in not wanting to bring Maryam – everything that she had thought when having to bring Sana. The remarkable thing is that Rubina decides to be the bigger person.

“I could just watch her have to take Maryam. I could just let her make a fool of herself at that party. I could just let her not be invited to any more parties, but something makes me tap Ami on the shoulder.”
“Don’t make Sana take Maryam to the party.”

lollipop ending

It is hard to be the bigger person. It is especially hard for the older sister to make sure that their siblings don’t have to go through tough experiences that they already faced. Rubina learned a lot from her experience of bringing Sana to the birthday party and when she stood up for her sister, she got an even better prize – the friendship of her sister.

Like any kid that struggles being the older child, J understood this book from the sense of an outraged older sibling. The hard part for me as a parent was that the mother constantly sides with Sana, encouraging Rubina to just share with her little sister. While this is good in theory, there are times when the younger sibling simply can’t get their way.

This was a sweet book. We both enjoyed the sibling relationship. I enjoyed seeing a family not often represented. And the book showed that sharing, forgiveness and accepting come in many forms.

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