Title: We are Twins!
Author: Sylvia Pagan Westphal
Illustrator: Nicole Gsell
Publisher: Pinwheel Books
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
Although the incidence of twins is rising in North America, they are still the subject of great interest among kids and adults alike. When my twin boys were infants, I could not go for a walk without being stopped and peppered with questions… Are they identical? How do you tell them apart? Do twins run in your family? And now that my boys are in school, the questions continue… What are twins? Can they read each other’s minds? Which one is older?
We are Twins! helps to answer those questions – for strangers, friends, family, and even twins themselves. Told in the alternating voice of twin toddlers, Ben and Sam explain to readers why they are NOT peas in a pod; how they are different and how they are the same.
It starts the simple concept of how and why they look different. Then author Sylvia Pagan Westphal, herself the mother of five including twin boys, goes on to explain the more complex – how differently they see the word. Through sparse, rhythmic text, readers are told: “Whatever we look at, be it small or large, wet or dry, squishy or hard, we’re really not think of it the same.”
This idea is expanded in three of the child-friendly illustrations by Nicole Gsell which show Sam and Ben looking at the same thing but seeing something different. There’s a bath toy that looks like an octopus to one and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs to the other. There’s a hair do that looks like ice cream on a cone to one and a bees nest to the other. And there’s a toy guitar that looks like a chicken leg to one and a broom to the other.
My only complaint about this book is that you can not tell, through the text or the drawings, which character is Ben and which is Sam. This may have been done on purpose, but since the names of my own non-identical twins are often reversed, I think it would have been helpful to give them their own identification by name.
The author does not shy away from the fact that twins do have a unique relationship and that despite their difference there are similarities as well. There’s the kind that most siblings share, like relatives and traditions. And the kind that many boys of the same age share, like a love of cars.
We are Twins! is the perfect gift for newborn twins. It is a book that should remain on the bookshelf (probably one copy for each) to enjoy as toddlers and keep for reference as they get older and begin the process of exploring their own identities. It would also be a perfect read aloud for a new kindergarten class that contains a set of twins. But at it’s heart, this book is not just about twins. It is about how we are all different in some ways and similar and some ways, infused with a meaning that is applicable to everyone – whether you have a sibling or not.