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Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems
by Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    ISBN 0-15-202-501-4
Ages 6 to 10

 Bank Street Bookstore
   Children's Book World
   Mrs. Nelson's

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  Visit Nancy Carpenter on Facebook.

  Visit Emma Dilemma on Facebook: Celebrate Sisters with Emma! (Please like her so she doesn't whine?)



Emma is Jess's little sister . . . and her dilemma. How can one small girl be sweet, funny, imaginative, playful, and affectionate as well as a clinging vine, brat, tattletale, and nuisance–all at the same time? Why is Jess supposed to be a good big sister while Emma doesn't have to be a good little sister?



2nd grader reading his poem
What is a "sibquain?" Well, it's a poem about a sibling written as a cinquain. (Siblings + Cinquains = "Sibquains!) After reading Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems, Christy McCabe's second graders wrote cinquains about their siblings. Directions for the art included in Teacher's Guide.

         Download PDF
(Discusses and suggests writing activities for show vs. tell, point of view, similes,  invented word dictionary, and includes instructions for 'sibquain' art.)

Other classroom ideas:

Claudia Lewis Award Poetry Teaching Toolbox (complete with a sweet sister trailer!)

Teach Mentor Texts  (Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions, Making Inferences
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Poetry, Anaphora)


See Nancy Carpenter's sketches of Emma and Emma and Jessica together.



Claudia Lewis Award
ALA Notable
Bulletin Blue Ribbon Selection
School Library Journal Best Book
Junior Library Guild
IRA Teachers' Choice
Librarians' Choice
Accelerated Reader
4  Starred Reviews

Art ©  Nancy Carpenter

"The vignettes form such a vivid portrait of Emma and Jessica that readers may feel as if they personally know them—and a tense turn of events will have readers holding their breath."
Publishers Weekly
, starred review

"A potent combination of accessibility and understanding, this will work well as a readalone or a readaloud, offering sympathy to those who are in the older-sib position and perspective to those who aren’t." Bulletin, starred review

Jessica shares the struggles of being the big sister in this collection of 34 poignant poems...Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life while the verses build to a climactic situation that brings these youngsters together in a touching way. School Library Journal starred review

"Older siblings everywhere will recognize the big-sister’s view of family fury and fun." Booklist, starred review

"Let me just say right out: I love this book. [W]hen I emphasize that I really love a certain title, that's my way of expressing how exceptional I find it... It's hard to know what our family loves most about Emma Dilemma - it's pitch-perfect poems that do so much to reveal voice and character, or its creative illustrations that do the same, but in a different way. They go hand in hand (like Emma and Jessica) and I'm glad I don't have to choose." Beth, Book Advisor at Epinions

"The poems and art tell an absorbing story—complete with a few tense moments and a warm, believable conclusion—widening the audience and making this book more than just an opportunity for big sisters to nod their heads in total recognition." The Horn Book

"I really enjoyed this picture book! ...The poems focus on the oh-so-complex relationship between a big sister, Jessica, and her little sister, Emma. I liked many of the poems... I'll be honest, I liked almost every single one. They were all so good, so true, so right." Becky's Book Reviews Young Readers

A wonderful review by middle school librarians Cindy Drobez and Lynn Rutan at Bookends: A Booklist Blog.

What more could an author ask? Great reviews and terrific ideas for using Emma Dilemma in the classroom, thanks to Sylvia Vardell's students, Courtney Komar and Kendra Caskey

Finally a book where my son could identify with a female character...Both my children count this as their new favorite book. Jenne Goodreads

...the poems that tell the story of two sisters: Jessica and Emma

"Soccer Game"

"Stuff Grownups Say"

"Role Model"

"Emma's Hand"

"Emma Dilemma"



"Late for School"

"Fun with Yarn"

"Bed Partner"




"Telling Time"

"Picture Books"


"Not Funny"

"Family Tree"
"Fine Dining"


"Emma's Birthday"






"Field Trip"










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