April 24, 2013

Hoogie in the Middle

Written by Stephanie McLellan
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
On sale: April 26, 2013 

"Too big.  Too small.  No room for me at all."
This is the plight of the middle child or, in the case of Hoogie, middle monster.  Not as impressive as the first born, Pumpkin, to whom all things come first and whose firsts are always applauded.  Not as adored as the baby of the family, Tweezle, whose needs are many and who is cherished to hold all memories of youth and cuteness.  Hoogie tries to be responsible and capable like Pumpkin and then tries to be free and helpless like Tweezle.  But, she is neither.  She feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.  Empty.

When the emptiness in Hoogie builds, it creates an explosion of emotions that has her parents finally directing their attention and love to their very pink, middle monster-child, helping her see that middles can be empowered to become the fulcrum upon which all others unify and balance.

Stephanie McLellan has taken a different spin on the middle child woes with Dean Griffith's adorable monster family, a family of greens, blues and pink, in which gender is insignificant but birth order seems to be everything.  Though the reader can discern the genders of the characters by carefully placed pronouns and the girls' dresses, it is irrelevant.  The family dynamics are played out according to how Mom and Dad interact with their "little monsters" and how their little ones consequently feel about themselves.

While Stephanie McLellan's text and Dean Griffith's illustrations ensure that Mom and Dad are seen as engaged parents who really try to be there for all their children, it's easy to understand how overwhelming it is to meet the needs of all of them, especially if their children may not be clear on what they need.  When Hoogie finally finds her voice and demands the attention of her parents, they immediately tell her and, best of all, show her that she is "the sun in the middle of the solar system" and the "pearl in the middle of the oyster."  Hoogie and her parents may not know it but current research (Salmon and Schumann, 2011) suggests that, as a middle monster, Hoogie is learning the skills and strategies that will help her navigate adulthood successfully.  Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffith probably didn't even realize how successful they'd been in delivering that little message to little monsters and their parents everywhere.

You've got to check the sweetest post by Hoogie at Pajama Press' blog, Pajama Party, called The Worst Parts of Being a Middle Child.  Adorable!

Li, Anita. (2012, September 6). Being middle child isn't so bad. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved at http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/being-middle-child-isnt-so-bad/article2115052/?service=mobile  on April 23, 2013.

Salmon, C. and Schumann, K. (2011) The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middle-Borns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities. Hudson Street Press: New York.

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