“Frenemies in the Family,” the latest volume of historical and contemporary biographies by Kathleen Krull, is a wonderful read for people of all ages. I left it on my coffee table and came home to find my 80-year-old father-in-law and 6-year-old daughter equally excited to talk about the Bunker Brothers (go look them up!).
Krull has spent a lifetime as a biographer for children, and “Frenemies in the Family” is particularly enjoyable because she does not try to gloss over the difficult aspects of relationships and history (I’m looking at you, Mary, Queen of Scots), yet still manages to write in a way that is lighthearted and whimsical.
Throughout her career, Krull has collected bits and pieces of sibling history from her profiles of famous people. The idea for a book focused on siblings stemmed from her interest in the relationship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. “There would be no Vincent without Theo,” Krull says. “He was the ultimate brother in history.” Many of the stories in “Frenemies” highlight a similar notion: siblings are instrumental in the formation of who we are as people.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Peyton, Cooper and Eli Manning and Serena and Venus Williams. Both of these sets of siblings rival each other in the same sport, but are supportive of one another and challenge each other to perform their best. They don’t seem to harbor any ill will or jealousy even when losing or being unable to compete, as was the case with Cooper Manning. Using the high-stakes world of professional sports as a lens, the siblings profiled here are a great example of how to love your sibling despite the inevitable competition.
The varied stories of famous siblings can also help younger children understand the complex dynamics behind sibling relationships. One of four siblings and the only girl, Krull uses entertaining biographies to illustrate that siblings can be friends, supporters and, often times, the ones who challenge us the most. Her observation is that “as competitive as they often are, [siblings] also have bonds that no one could break. They become your lifelong friends.”
A note to commuters: The audio version of “Frenemies” was recently released. The stories in this collection may be the perfect antidote to the inevitable fights that occur on long car rides!
For more on Krull, visit kathleenkrull.com.