Dulcie and Himself the Elf have reached a new level of familiarity with each other  and it isn’t just drinking the bath water that the other has peed in. They’ve perfected winding each other up to either such hysterical laughter that one or the other topples over, and as a neat counterpoint, have learned that they can reduce the other to tears of rage in an instant.

“He’s so funny! I love him so much that I’m going to give him a big squeeze,” croons Dulcie, grasping Himself the Elf firmly and making him sit down. He has spent the last minute trying unsuccessfully to reach up to a previously unattainable point on a bookcase and just as his fingers brush the shelf, she has calculatingly bumped him back down to the floor and is using his rage as a distraction for her boredom. But it works both ways. Himself the Elf may be charmingly silly but he isn’t stupid. He submits to the cuddle, all the while stuffing a huge handful of her treasured ballet skirt into his slobbery mouth. A muffled “Haaaaa!” can be heard from him, then a shriek as his sister notices. The tutu-clad child can certainly move fast when she needs to.

Yet, ten minutes later, when Dulcie perceives the cat’s behaviour as somehow slighting her baby brother, she is moved to defend him, with all her wrath aimed full force at the unfortunate feline. “He does NOT want to feed you and he does NOT want you to rub your mucky tail on Denis!” Denis is Lucien’s own baby doll, bought to avoid conflict as he would keep grabbing his sister’s, so it strikes me as strange that he is the cause of this ruckus. But I like this demonstration of sibling loyalty in the face of a common enemy. “Shall we read I don’t like Gloria?” I suggest to Dulcie, when Himself the Elf is fully occupied in emptying a box of plastic food, checking each with his two teeny teeth.

I Don’t Like Gloria by Kaye Umansky and illustrations by Margaret Chamberlain

Colin is a little dog who clearly had a perfect life until the cute, fluffy cat Gloria arrived at his home. She starts eating from his dish and sleeping in his bed, and she refuses to get frightened and climb a tree when he barks at her in the garden. He feels fully usurped in the affections of the little girl who owns him, as Gloria revels in being the novelty. Colin’s walk is forgotten, he is forbidden from growling and he really does not like Gloria. He’s a sweet, round-faced pup who wears a rather fetching red doggy coat, so his palpable rage is both pitiable and just a tiny bit amusing. Gloria’s huge yellow eyes either naughtily taunt Colin as she’s cuddled by the little girl, or fail to register him at all as she’s groomed and fussed over.

“But hey, what’s this? A big cardboard box has arrived.” Colin is not allowed to investigate it, but then to his great surprise, when Gloria goes for a sniff they “push her back too!” Is her ascendency over? The box contains Jeffrey, a rabbit so cute that even Mr McGregor might show some leniency. “Now nobody’s taking any notice of me and Gloria” (slight wince from me there, for the clumsy phrasing. But moving on) and from always being pictured at different sides of the pages, Colin and Gloria are now seen sitting close together, exchanging quizzical looks and conspiratorial smiles. However, Colin can’t admit that they’ve fully resolved their differences. “I still don’t like Gloria and Gloria doesn’t like me” he insists, though the pictures tell a different story. He will go so far as admitting to common ground now, in what I’ve read as an animal parallel to the arrival of a new sibling. Former enemy becomes comrade in the face of a new challenge: “But at least we agree on with thing. We REALLY don’t like Jeffrey!”

And in case you were interested, this post emphatically is not an announcement that I’m having another baby. Thanks for wondering though.