[guest post] Brother, Sister, Me and You by Mary Quattlebaum


So pleased to welcome award winning author Mary Quattlebaum to talk about her new National Geographic Kids picture book, Brother, Sister, Me and You (2019), which features the unique sibling bonds of eleven different types of animals (including humans). 🙂

Mary is uniquely qualified in this subject as she grew up with three brothers and three sisters. Her lively, fun-to-read rhyming text is paired with color photos of adorable cubs, kits, chicks, pups, and ducklings who are having too much fun leaping, paddling, tumbling, climbing and bouncing together. We soon see how humans are much the same when it comes to interacting and playing with our siblings.


Sister lion leaps and pounces.
Honeybees do wiggle-bounces.
Ducklings paddle through the water.
Brother splashes sister otter.


So, why did Mary want to write this book? What are some of the things she liked to do with her brothers and sisters? Yes, cooking was one of them, and she’s got a couple of recipes to share. Read on!


Thanks so much for having me as a guest to your blog, Jama! I love the way it intersects with food, family, and children’s books, and I hope Mr. Cornelius enjoys my M&M bars.

My three brothers and three sisters are an endless source of inspiration, hilarity, comfort, and good times, and much of what I write for kids ties into our shared childhood in the country in Tidewater Virginia.

My new nonfiction picture book, Brother, Sister, Me and You, grew out of a curiosity about sibling relationships in the animal kingdom. How and why might connections form? What purpose might this serve, and how might these behaviors and bonds help the individuals and the species itself to survive? It was fascinating, for example, to learn that the pouncing and leaping of female lion cubs prepares them for cooperative hunting when mature. And beavers do chores and babysit! They live with their parents until they are 18 months old, and they help maintain the lodge and play with the younger kits.



And because some of the earliest memories I have are of our dad reciting nursery rhymes to us as little kids, it seemed inevitable that the text be written in rhyming verse. (One of my sisters always asked for “Little Bo Peep,” whereas I wanted “Hickory Dickory Dock.”)

I was the oldest child in the family, and like the young beavers, I often had to babysit younger siblings, who could be wayward and fractious. One of my favorite books from childhood was Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, in which oldest sister Polly was universally respected and adored (so NOT my role).



One thing we kids liked to do together was cook. This translates to making and gobbling vast quantities of popcorn and tripling the recipe for Oatmeal Cookies on the Quaker Oats box and probably scarfing down as much cookie dough as we baked. My mother’s family immigrated from Ireland, but she had no treasured way of making Irish soda bread so I tried many recipes as a kid. Only recently did I discover the tastiest: the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe. I substitute 2/3 cup of golden raisins for the 1 cup of currants, and make sure the raisins are gently poked down into and covered by the dough, to avoid burning of exposed areas.


via Food Network


One animal featured in Brother, Sister, Me and You is the honeybee. My dad had several hives and we loved training binoculars on the bees and watching them collect pollen and nectar. The honey they produced was rich and dark, and we often used it instead of sugar at the table. My mother tried this substitution only once while baking the Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, though. The result resembled sweet pumpkin soup in a pie shell.

As a kid, I loved baking elaborate shaped cakes, with lots of frosting to hold everything together. My sibs remember a butterfly cake (with a lime jelly roll as the body and red licorice antenna), bundt cake skirts frosted onto dolls, a gamboling lamb cake with shredded coconut for fleece, a baseball cake, and a celebratory two-layer chocolate Groundhog Day cake.

These days a favorite at family gatherings, especially with our kids, are quick M&M bar cookies. My daughter discovered the recipe and modified it, and I think of her when I pull them, warm from the oven (and sometimes mail her a batch at college).


via Averie Cooks

Quick M&M Bars

  • Servings: 12 to 16 bars
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Oreo cookies, broken into large pieces
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup M&Ms (for a holiday treat, separate out the M&Ms of the appropriate color from the bag — red and green for Christmas, red for Valentine’s Day, green and orange for St. Patrick’s Day, yellow and green for Easter, and orange and brown for Halloween)


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Melt butter and let it cool.

Add egg (to cool melted butter, so you don’t scramble it), brown sugar, vanilla and stir till smooth.

Add flour and stir till just combined, don’t overmix.

Stir in Oreo pieces.

Spoon batter into pan and lightly smooth the top.

Sprinkle M&Ms over the top, pressing them gently down with spatula or your fingers.

Bake for about 20-22 minutes. Top should be set and edges slightly firm. Allow to cool in pan for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

~ recipe shared by Mary Quattlebaum, as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.




Mary Quattlebaum loved playing pirates, reading ghost stories, and planting seeds in the family garden when she was a kid. And pirates, ghosts, and a garden are all featured in her books, which include Family Reunion, Hero Dogs!: True Stories of Amazing Animal Heroes!, Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, and Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods. Her 26 children’s books, which include picture books, poetry, chapter books and novels, have received awards such as Random House’s Marguerite de Angeli Prize, Parenting Reading Magic Award, NAPPA Gold Award, Bank Street Best Book, SIBA Best Picture Book, and inclusion on many state Children’s Choice lists. Formerly a medical writer for a children’s hospital, Mary now teaches in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and reviews children’s books regularly for the Washington Post, Washington Parent, and the National Wildlife Federation.



written by Mary Quattlebaum
published by National Geographic Kids, March 2019
Nonfiction Picture Book for ages 2-5, 32 pp.
*Includes an Afterword by child development expert Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., and Animal Facts

♥️ Learn more about Mary’s books, presentations and workshops at her Official Website.

♥️ Read about the last time Mary was here, dressed in pirate garb and sharing a recipe for Pirate Pie!



The lovely and talented Margaret Simon is hosting the Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!

Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “[guest post] Brother, Sister, Me and You by Mary Quattlebaum

  1. What a great guest post, Jama. She is so right that your blog is a wonderful intersection of food, family, and children’s books. I love the sound of her book and the pictures of playing sibs. Makes me think of my three children having a tickle break. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brenda, thanks so much for your kind words about my book. I was honored it was featured by Jama as I am a avid follower of her blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love hearing about this book and Mary’s memories with her siblings, Jama. Animal behaviors always fascinate and this is sure to be interesting. Thanks for every bit, Mary & Jama, the M & M bars, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always interesting for me to hear about people who grew up with a lot of siblings (my mom was one of 12). I like how Mary had to triple the oatmeal cookie recipe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a sweet and fun book! I had the pleasure of doing an event with Mary last weekend, where she read, and her genial husband, Chris acted out the parts along with the kids at the storytime! Congrats, Mary! I love animal books–both reading and writing them, and the M&M bars look tasty too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t realize the two of you had done an event together. How fun it must have been. That’s cool that Chris also took part (love when he and Mary play pirates too). 🙂


    2. Maria, I had such a great time at that event with you and loved seeing the photos of your sweet Becca! All the best with your new book and those soon to come!


  4. National Geographic makes such beautiful books. I think this one needs to be a gift for my grandson. The M&M bars are going on the menu for our class party next week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, these bars will be great for a class party — and your grandson will definitely enjoy this book. The photos are wonderful and the text is fun to read aloud.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, thanks much for thinking of my book for your grandson, Margaret! And the bars are so easy to make and I hope your class likes them.


  5. A wonderful post today, Jama. I love Mary’s recollections of time with her siblings and the whole idea of her new book. I’ll bet kids love it! My sisters and I loved cooking too. You make me think of great times as a kid making something yummy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Though I didn’t grow up with sisters, I did have girl cousins to bake with. I still remember a certain sponge cake that called for a lot of eggs (maybe 10). It came out so rubbery it practically bounced off the floor. 😀


    2. Loved hearing about the joy you and your sisters took in cooking as kids. I confess: we ate a lot of raw cookie and cake batter (which was yummy but now forbidden to youngsters because of salmonella).


    1. It’s always interesting to hear the backstories of books. Sounds like Mary will never run out of good ideas with such a big family.


      1. Michelle, hope you enjoy the bars! They are soooo easy to make. And thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Jama, I always love how you dish up a poetic surprise mixed with wonderful food choices sprinkled with doable recipes. This post came just in time for my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday. I have a separate file now in Google Docs for great desserts from your posts. Those M & M bars should be a festive treat for little ones and adults who love chocolate. As for Mary Quattlebaum, I was delighted to read her backstory and be intrigued by her poetry. Her book is a must for early education classrooms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your granddaughter is already two? This book sounds perfect for her. Nice to hear you’re filing the dessert recipes from the blog. Thanks for visiting, Carol!


  7. Carol, hope you enjoy your bars and thank much for your thoughts on how the book can be shared in early education classrooms.


  8. As an only child, I am curious about sibling stories (and books)! I loved hearing about all the cakes Mary baked. A celebratory Groundhog Day cake sounds like me, actually — any reason to celebrate!

    Liked by 1 person

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