I’m blown away by Flora’s Very Windy Day (written by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan). It’s a story about a young girl who is torn between wanting to get rid of an annoying little brother and wanting to protect him as only a big sister can. When Flora’s brother, Crispin, accidentally spills her paints and creates a mess, their mother sends them outside to play. Flora, of course, knows this is unfair—after all, it was her brother who spilled the paint. Plus, it’s very windy outside: “The wind is very strong and will blow me away,” she tells her mother. Then Flora remembers that she has “super-special heavy-duty red boots” that will keep her anchored to the ground. So she stops protesting and goes outside with Crispin (who never says a word and looks as cute as a button). Poor Crispin only has regular boots on. “Oh well, Flora thought. It wouldn’t be her fault if Crispin blew away.”
Outside, Flora can’t help taunting the wind for being unable to budge her. The wind blows even harder and lifts Crispin into the air. Soon he’s being blown away and Flora must make a quick decision. She kicks off her super-special boots and flies after him. (My daughter, a big sister with a pesky little brother of her own, was fascinated by Flora’s dilemma.) As the sister and brother soar through the air, a dragonfly, sparrow, rainbow, cloud, eagle, and even the man in the moon all ask Flora: “Will you give me that little boy?” After rebuffing each of them, she has a face-to-face with the wind. When even the wind offers to take Crispin off her hands, Flora realizes she doesn’t want to lose her little brother after all. What she wants most is to bring him safely back home—and she does, in an ending chock-full of sibling affection.
Phelan’s whimsical, airy watercolors are the perfect match for Birdsall’s fanciful tale. In her first picture book for young children, Birdsall, the National Book Award-winning author of The Penderwicks, gets an older sibling’s conflicting emotions just right—the anger, annoyance, and irritation; the protective urge, caring, and love underneath it all. This is an enchanting story that will resonate with older siblings who have ever wished their younger brother or sister would magically disappear.
Are you familiar with Flora’s Very Windy Day? What do you think of it? Can you think of other books that feature a big sister-little brother pair?