Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress
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