• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Social distancing? Try a better way to work remotely on your online files. Dokkio, a new product from PBworks, can help your team find, organize, and collaborate on your Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, Box, and Slack files. Sign up for free.


My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother

Page history last edited by Meghan F. 9 years, 5 months ago



Plot Summary


            My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother was written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. This is a story about a brother, Richard, and sister, Patricia, who are in constant competition. The younger sister Patricia is always trying to find ways that she can out do her brother in at least one thing. One day Patricia thinks that she has finally found that thing. They are picking rhubarb and Richard claims he does not like rhubarb. This is Patricia’s chance to finally be better at something than her brother. They begin having a rhubarb eating contest. Patricia has to stop eating the rhubarb and to her amazement Richard is still eating them! After Richard has beat her once again, he claims he does not like rhubarb, he LOVES them.

That night Patricia sees a shooting star. She decides to make a wish. Her wish, of course, was to be able to outdo her brother in something, anything at all. So, the next day when they are at the carnival Richard and Patricia see a merry-go-round. Patricia challenges Richard to a competition of who can rid it the longest.  As they go around and around and around, Patricia sees Richard starting to get off. Just then she thinks I have finally out done you in something and the next thing she knows she is at home laying down. When she passed out because she was so dizzy from riding the merry-go-round, Richard carried her all the way home. Patricia finally did something to outdo her brother but he still helped her when she needed it. From then on their relationship had changed forever.




True Story


Many things about this book are true of the author's childhood. Particia Barber was her maiden name and she did have an older brother by the name of Richard. Patricia and her brother did grow up on their grandparents farm in Union City, MI. At the begining and end pages of the book we see real photographs of the two of them together throughout the years



Textual Elements


Setting- The setting of the book takes place in Union City, MI.  It is important to note that this is also where the author of the book grew up. Patricia and Richie live on their grandmother's farm along with her mother. Most of the setting of the book though is seen outdoors on the farm. There are only a few pages in the book where they are inside the farm house.


Characters- Their are two main characters in this book and then two other characters that play into the book. The two main characters in the book are round meaning that we see them grow or change somehow throughtout the story.


Patricia Barber- She is a main character of the book and is the one telling the story. The story is from her point of view.


 Richie Barber- He is another main character in this book. We know that Richie is Patricia's older brother. He is four years      older than her and is constantly bugging her. Patricia describes Richie as follows "He had orange hair that was like wire; he was covered in freckles and looked like a weasel with glasses".


Babushka- She is Patricia and Richie's grandmother whom they live with. We see babushka as a warm and loving grandmother and almost more of a motherly to the children then their own mother. Babushka is the one that we always see putting the children to bed.


Mother- We don't know much about this character other than the fact that she shows up throughout some of the pages and has one sentence in the book after Patricia gets hurt.


Grandfather- We see him throughout the book in many different pictures. However, we know nothing about him from the children and he does not talk at all throughout the book.


Theme- The theme of this book is family. The books theme of family comes from how caring Patricia's Babushka is for both of the children. At the end of the book it also shows the whole family sleeping together underneath the stars. We also know from information about Patricia Polacco that after her parents divorce her grandmother and grandfather did take them in and cared for them. Again showing the theme of family. The theme of family also reaccures when Richie takes such good care of Patricia when she falls off the Merry Go Round. He carries her all the way home and then fetches the doctor. Again this shows that even though they bickered family is family and you take care of them when it comes down to it.


The last theme I have identified in this picture book is that of a broken home. We see this very implicitly and it is never mentioned or have any attention brought to it. We see that Patricia, her brother, and mother all live with their grandparents. The dad of the family is absent, leaving Patricia’s mother as a single-mother raising these two children, plus they live with the grandparents. This is a very unusual household combination that is becoming more and more common in the United States.


Artistic Elements 


Polacco uses marking pens and pencils to create the illustrations in My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother. The illustrations appear to be slightly childlike which infers to the reader that the art work is naïve art. Naïve art is semi-realistic and although it appears to be slightly childlike that is not due to poor or no training of the illustrator. The illustrator in fact has a lot of training and chooses this drawing style. This kind of drawing is used to provide a simplistic look and a different feeling than other kinds of illustrations. It also shows the illustrators intense emotions and visions.

      The use of text and illustrations work well together. For the second picture displayed below (set on the white background), we see Richard in several different positions on the page. In the physical book, the text is used in combination with these images and placed in different areas on the page. For this page especially, we can see the illustrations as an extension of the text.

      There are many intense colors used in each illustration. The different colors make the drawing much more interesting and intriguing to look at. All the varities of colors make the reader want to look at the pictures just as much as the text.



This illustration is set on a white background with drawings of Richard all over the page. This makes for an interesting read when the illustrations are different throughout the book. Some use a lot of variations of colors and some use very little color. I think Polacco chose to do the illustrations with the use of white space to help emphasize the important parts of the illustration. As readers looking at the picture of Patricia we know that she is outside because of how the page previously bleeds onto this one as well as the trees in the background. She chooses though to not color the sky blue or put anymore illustration into the sky. This is seen in many different pictures throughout the book. I think this is her way of choosing to emphasize the important parts of the illustrations. In the picture of Patricia we know that the emphasize in this picture is on her face and not the background. The book also uses full bleeds which extend over through the gutter and onto the next page. The book is also made up of mostly double page spreads. There is only one page that does not have a double page spread and that is the last page.


Analysis and Critique


I really enjoyed the book and felt like Patricia Polacco did a good job getting across her moral of the story which was family. This book can be used in many different ways as learning tool. This is a great book to teach about sibling rivalry with. Although the arguing is between siblings I think this book could also be used to as a book to help teach about friendship. Friends argue sometimes but in the end when it matters always pull through. This book may also be used to teach about different family dynamics. We don't see it as often but there are children that live with their grandparents or may have divorced parents such as Patricia and Richie did.


I thought the use of the illustrations with the text really brought this book to life. It helped set the tone of the book of warm and friendly. This allows the book to be relatable to anyone that picks it up. The book will be a great classroom read. It could also help in introducing Michigan authors.  



Additional Resources 


 To see an interview with Polacco about her childhood as well as about her writing and illustrations, please visit http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/polacco


To see a readers theater version of My Redheaded Older Brother, visit this link http://www.storylineonline.net/








Polacco, Patricia. My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother. Illus. Patricia Polacco. New York City: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1994.




Patricia Polacco.  http://www.patriciapolacco.com/books/rrob/rrob_index.html


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.