Hoogie in the Middle Reviews

Quill & Quire

HoogieInTheMiddle_C“Scene: Two children stand in the late afternoon sunlight comparing shadows. The little brother says, ‘Look! I’m long!’ His older sister replies, ‘I’m longer.’

Siblings give us our first experience of the tyranny of comparison. Birth order programs us for life, and, in childhood, where you fit in is as obvious as your shoe size or those marks on the doorframe….

Hoogie in the Middle, by Stephanie McLellan and illustrated by Dean Griffiths, features a family of benevolently hairy monsters who look like a cross between a domestic long-haired cat and one of Sendak’s wild things (the horned one in the striped pullover), resplendent in My Little Pony colours. Pumpkin, the eldest child, is blue like mom. Baby Tweezle is green like Dad, but middle child Hoogie is magenta, like herself. Hoogie feels ignored and neglected, neither as cute as Tweezle, nor as competent as Pumpkin….

This picture book is a terrific example of words and images doing their own job. The text gives us movement (as Pumpkin skips and Tweezle toddles), melody (as Hoogie whispers, ‘Too big. Too small. No room for me at all’), and, most of all, metaphor (‘Sometimes Hoogie feels like the hole in the middle of a donut’).

The pictures carry the emotional weight. The composition of family scenes says it all: close pairings of parent and child leave Hoogie floating alone against a white background; Hoogie looks sideways across a double-page spread but nobody is looking back; her sister and brother are enclosed in circles and triangles while she’s isolated on a facing page.

Griffiths captures the body language of children (well, of childlike, horned, fanged, cat-like things) perfectly. The final spread shows Hoogie swinging between her parents’ hands, her posture a subtle combination of joy and tension, triumph and just a tiny bit of anger…”
—Sarah Ellis

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Award-winning author Stephanie McLellan has drawn inspiration from her own three children and created Hoogie in the Middle, a sneak peek into the world surrounding Hoogie, the middle child. The author playfully uses rhythm, alliteration and similes to delineate Hoogie’s character and exhibit how the middle child feels: ‘Pumpkin is the big, big girl,’ ‘Tweezle is the itty, bitty baby’ and ‘[Hoogie] feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.’

Whatever Hoogie does is not right. When Tweezle squishes food, ‘Everyone laughs.’ When Hoogie does it, she is told to ‘not be such a baby.’ Similarly, she is ‘too small’ to help dad. ‘Too big. Too small. No room for me at all,’ sums up the pain she feels. In the end just like ‘the sun in the middle of the solar system,’ Hoogie isn’t so invisible anymore. McLellan finishes her story with a deliciously sweet simile!

Continuing in this series, Tweezle into Everything follows in the footsteps of the typical baby of the household where Tweezle is the ‘last yummy cookie.’ Charming similes and playful dialogue express Tweezle’s adorable character, constantly trying to prove he is big: ‘I not baby…I big boy!’ He believes he is all grown up he messes his father’s tool shed, or enhances his older sister’s paintings. However, Tweezle is made to feel like the ‘…mud on the bottom…’ of his sister’s shoes. Yet he refuses to give up: ‘I not bottom.’ The book has an unpredictable and heart-warming ending, showing that what Tweezle unexpectedly does is indeed a ‘big deal.’

This loveable family comes alive with Dean Griffiths cuddly personified monsters. Vibrating hues painted in pencil crayons and watercolours evoke an expressionistic style with realistic elements. The clever use of negative space adds dimension and energy to the characters as well. Consistent rendering makes switching from each book in the series a seamless transition. The difference is the focus on the title characters, e.g. Hoogie holding a donut over one eye exaggerating the fact that she feels ‘like the hole in the middle of the donut’ or Tweezle holding a large beach ball reinforcing his babyish stature.

Hoogie in the Middle and Tweezle into Everything explore the wonder of childhood and the average day-to-day dilemmas and real-life emotions of children with siblings. Wonderful books to read aloud that provide an opportunity for discussion among parents and children.”
—Lara Chauvin

Resource Links

“Not all children’s books need to be moralistic; some just express, simply and effectively, how it feels to be a child. Hoogie in the Middle is just such a book.

Hoogie might be in the middle of her monster family, but she is front and centre in this delightful picture book. Young readers caught in the middle like Hoogie will certainly identify; even their siblings will find themselves portrayed in positive ways in the pages. Hoogie is always caught in the middle, so much so that sometimes she ‘feels like the hole in the middle of a donut’: sadly invisible to all of her family. Eventually, her sadness becomes too much and ‘Hoogie… EXPLODES!’ Sometimes it takes a drastic reaction to get adults to notice…

Hoogie in the Middle does not condone loss of temper so much as present frustration as a real part of the childhood experience, as much as the imaginative play that Hoogie and her siblings engage in. The simple comparisons made between Hoogie, her older sister Pumpkin, and their baby brother Tweezle, are balanced and sufficiently repetitious to create a memorable, lilting narrative that will help young readers to learn the words as they go, or to enjoy the sounds as their parents read to them.

Combine Stephanie McLellan’s gentle and effective wordplay with Dean Griffiths’ fabulous, colourful illustrations, and you have a book that feels like Hoogie at the end: ‘like the jelly in the middle of a sandwich: Sweet.’”
—Karen Huenemann

CM Magazine

“Stephanie McLellan, who has received numerous awards and nominations for her previous books, has created a charming text…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.

Highly Recommended.

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“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.”
—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review

Pickle Me This

“…I knew something was up when Harriet  suddenly couldn’t stop talking about it. (You be Pumpkin, you be Tweezle, and I’ll be Hoogie,’ she’d demand of whoever was in her company, or a variation on this.) I asked her why she liked the book so much: Because Hoogie’s a monster and she’s nice,’ Harriet answered, and I liked that answer…This is a good teaching book for any middle child, but also (I have a feeling!) useful for any little one suffering a bit of family displacement. Hoogie will help them to articulate their feelings and know they aren’t alone.”
—Kerry Clare

Click here to read the full review

Save

Save