Chloe, Instead by Micah Player (Chronicle, £9.99) 3+
“Write what you know” is the advice often given to aspiring authors and it’s fair to say that Micah Player is pretty much an expert when it comes to sibling affairs. As the third of ten children, following his father’s oil industry job across the US, Mrs Player tactically fostered each child’s individual talent so they felt special amongst the pack. And as it’s clear from the vivid illustrations that make Chloe, Instead such a treat, Micah’s talent was drawing.
Yet the inspiration for this charming story of change, difference and love came both from observing his own sons (Wesley, nine, and Simon, four) and Micah’s trepidation about the future after quitting his job as a designer for Paul Frank Industries.
“Wesley had five years as the epicentre of our lives, then Simon arrived and turned our world upside down,” he says. “At first, everything was the same but better. He had an expectation that this new addition would be an accessory to him. Then it dawned on him that something disruptive was afoot…”
The fictional version of this drama is played out by earnest, music-loving Molly and her spirited little sister, Chloe, who is not the keyboard-playing, mini-me she’d dreamed of. With such resentment simmering, it’s inevitable that things come to head, Molly lashing out when her smaller sibling innocently touches her Casio. Her outburst sends Chloe scurrying for cover and Molly is heavy with guilt, swiftly issuing an apology. And she finally finds a way to include her sister –encouraging Chloe to dance while she plays.
Told in a rich palette of sunny yellow, emerald green and shocking pink, the author’s former incarnation at colour-loving Paul Frank shines through, along with his passion for anime, his squabbling sisters all big eyes and frenetic movements.
Micah believes even singleton children can learn something his sisterly duo. “The story explores a universal theme of expectation and reality, and how a lack of perspective can stop you embracing the reality,” says Micah. “For example, when I got married, I’d already written the script. At first you feel disappointed, but the reality is what you get is ten times more interesting than any movie.”