CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 36. . . .May 17, 2013
Hoogie in the Middle.
Stephanie McLellan. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover. $17.95.
Brothers and sisters-Juvenile fiction.
Middle-born children-Juvenile fiction.
Emotions in children-Juvenile fiction.
Parent and child-Juvenile fiction.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 2-7.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
Pumpkin was the first. Tweezle is the newest. Hoogie's in the middle. Pumpkin looks like Mom. Tweezle looks like Dad. Hoogie just looks like... Hoogie. Everyone claps as Pumpkin dances around the room. They all cheer as Tweezle toddles around the table. No one sees Hoogie hop.
Hoogie, the middle child, finds herself unable to make her mark as a dynamic member of her monster family. Big sister Pumpkin is so creative and responsible while baby brother Tweezle is cute and lovable. Hoogie's contributions seem to pale in comparison, and she always ends up feeling overlooked and unimportant. Too small for helping out, too big for cuddling on mother's lap, she just feels as insignificant as the "hole in the middle of the donut". Only when the hurt becomes unbearable does Hoogie let out all her emotions in one wild temper tantrum which gives her parents the opportunity to provide her with the reassurance she needs.
The situation is, of course, all too familiar, touching not only upon the woes of middle siblings but also the sensibilities of anybody feeling under-appreciated! The reader easily relates to a child who, tired of hearing her big sister praised and little brother cooed over, asserts herself in the only way open to her!
Stephanie McClellan, who has received numerous awards and nominations for her previous books, has created a charming text which, for the most part, has just the right pace and rhythm. This is further enhanced by appealing phrases that Hoogie's parents find to comfort her by comparing her to "the sun in the middle of the solar system" and "the pearl in the middle of the oyster." Although the transition from temper tantrum to resolution is a little bit rushed, the reader has a sense of satisfaction at the finale when Hoogie happily realizes that, after all, she is "the jelly in the middle of the sandwich."
Dean Griffiths, the prolific and popular award-winning illustrator of over twenty-five picture books, has provided readers with flamboyant full-page depictions of purple, green and blue monsters. The vigor and color are compelling, but it is the details that fascinate. Facial expressions and body language capture the confidence and joie-de-vivre of Pumpkin, the cuteness of Tweezle, and the angst of Hoogie. Both the humor and perceptiveness are endearing.
Hoogie in the Middle would make a great read-aloud for children aged three-seven, either in a group or individually. Middle siblings and monster lovers are among those who will especially relate to Hoogie.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian in Toronto, ON.
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