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Posts Tagged ‘hoogie-in-the-middle’

Interview with Stephanie McLellan

Posted on October 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

S.McLellan-2014Stephanie McLellan is back with a book about the youngest (smallest) monster sibling who gets himself into some big situations.Tweezle into Everything is currently available for purchase in Canada. This award-winning author was kind enough to answer some questions about the process of writing this book, rescuing baby animals, and nicknames. 

When you were writing Hoogie in the Middle, was it always your intention to write about another monster sibling?

Writing books about Tweezle and Pumpkin was Publisher Gail Winskill’s idea. Gail’s enthusiasm for Hoogie in the Middle was very exciting, and when Gail is passionate about an idea, anything is possible. It was Gail’s idea to illustrate the characters as monsters and I fell in love with Dean Griffiths’ illustrations right from the start. When Gail proposed the idea of two additional books, I was thrilled and started in on them right away. In fact, I’ve also written manuscripts about an only child (a friend of Hoogie’s) called Wyn, and also about identical twins (named Snips and Spins).

How was this writing experience different than/similar to Hoogie in the Middle?

Tweezle_CWriting Tweezle was an entirely different experience. The plot of Hoogie in the Middle was built around the middle child experience of feeling both too big and too small … isolated in between these opposites. My understanding of how Hoogie felt was crystalized by viewings of old home movies where I saw, with the distance of time, actual situations take place that demonstrated this. What I set out to do with Tweezle’s and Pumpkin’s stories was to identify and build on the core emotions at play for the youngest and the oldest. For the baby of the family, it seems to me that the issue is again built on colliding opposites … i.e. Tweezle is the littlest but he yearns to be big. A phrase repeated frequently by the real Tweezle (our son Tristan) when he was little was “I big”. Where many of the plot elements in Hoogie in the Middle are taken from real life, Tweezle’s story was wholly invented in my effort to play with the big/little opposition.

In this book, Tweezle helps a baby bird in need. Is this something you’ve experienced yourself? Is it something you want to draw attention to/feel passionate about?

It would be difficult not to feel passionate about helping little baby birds in distress, but the plot of Tweezle into Everything was wholly invented and not based on anything that happened in exactly that way in our family. That being said, we have certainly attempted rescue of various critters over the years: a baby rabbit our kids named Jack, baby mice and so on. The real life Tweezle (our now 17 year old son Tristan) actually did come home after a walk recently with an orphaned baby squirrel, cradled in a large, empty candy container he got from a store near where he found it. Fortunately, we have a wildlife expert who lives on the next street (nicknamed The Squirrel Lady) who was able to give us some advice. None of those situations had happy endings and we do have a few little graves in our back yard. So while Tweezle’s story is not based on a specific incident, the spirit of the story feels very much like our real life. I did want to make sure that the bird rescue in the story didn’t contradict what wildlife specialists would recommend and, thus, after mapping out the plot, I did some research to make sure Tweezle was doing the right thing.

What was your favourite part about writing Tweezle into Everything?

It was fun to shift the point of view to someone else within the family I created in Hoogie in the Middle. In the first book, of course, Hoogie was front and center. We knew how she was feeling, and Tweezle and Pumpkin were background characters for her to bounce off. With Tweezle into Everything, I got to shift the lens, pushing Hoogie back and Tweezle forward so now we could peek inside his head and see something surprising. I’m hoping readers find this fun too, especially now that they already know Hoogie and can apply their understanding of her to the way she acts towards Tweezle in this new story.

When you began writing this book, did you know what the ending would be?

When I started writing this book I didn’t even know what the beginning would be! Pumpkin’s story (although that manuscript is still to be edited) came much more easily. The arrival of a second child after the first has enjoyed the limelight for so many years (in our case, 3-1/2 years) is fairly traumatic for the eldest. There were many, many real life events I could draw on. By the time the third comes along, your whole household is just a zoo. Children outnumber the parents. You now have five personalities mixing, matching, colliding, jiving. It’s more difficult to separate the stories because you’re just one big happy mess together. With Tweezle, then, I didn’t find myself drawing on a specific event so much as my awareness that he was determined to be just as “big” and accomplished as anyone else in the family. I wanted to dream up a scenario where his actions would be misinterpreted by everyone because of their preconceptions about him (i.e. that he is the incapable “baby”), and then give him a chance to shatter those perceptions with his actions. (P.S. Tweezle/aka Tristan really did grow up to be big, currently towering over all of us at about 6’6”.)

Hoogie and Tweezle are nicknames for two of your own children. Do you have a nickname? Where did it come from?

I didn’t have a nickname myself, but you’re correct that each of our three children did. “Hoogie” is our middle child’s (Eryn’s) real nickname. I think it was my husband who came up with these funny little endearments, and he came to them honestly. There are ten kids in his family, and while they have pretty normal real names, I came to know them over the years by their nicknames: Honey Bear, Fiddler (Fidzie), McGeezie, Featherhead, Blackie, Chaino (Shmuggie), Cloddy and Miss Pretty. I’ve missed a couple, but you get the idea. Eryn was called, variously, Hoogie, Hoogs, The Hoogster and Mrs. Grumpbladder … the latter coming from a picture book we enjoyed when our kids were little called King Change-a-Lot by Babette Cole. The other names I used in the story (Tweezle for the baby boy and Pumpkin for Hoogie’s older sister) aren’t actually the real nicknames of our son (Tristan) and eldest daughter (Sarah). Because the text of Hoogie in the Middle is so sparse, I was conscious of the sound and melody of the language and wanted names that fit the cadence of the opening lines. This meant that I needed two-syllable names which had stress on the first syllable. Tweezle and Pumpkin are invented names. I’m not really sure where the name Tweezle came from although, in retrospect, it’s close to one of Tristan’s nicknames, Twister (or The Twister). The nickname Twister stemmed from Tristan’s third birthday which we held at a Go-Cart track with his many aunts and uncles. We set this up as the “Twister 3000 Race” complete with racing flags, trophies, etc. Mostly, though, we call him Shmoe (and where that name comes from I’ll never know). The older sister Pumpkin was originally called Munchkin when I submitted the story to Pajama Press. Publisher, Gail Winskill, and editor, Ann Featherstone, had me re-think that name given that “munchkin” sounded like the name of a youngest vs. an oldest. That made sense to me and Pumpkin seemed like a good replacement. Sarah’s real nickname, though, is Magoo (as in, “Sarah Magoo, we sure love you”). There were times she was also called “The Baby from L” (I’ll let you guess where that evolved from). And that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about nicknames!

What is the best thing about writing for children?

There’s nothing I loved more than curling up with our kids and reading to them for hours on end. We have so many books in our household; so many favourites. The thing about the books we’ve read and re-read multiple times is that they’ve become part of our family history. When you think about a book you’ve shared, you generally remember not only the story itself, but also where you were when you read it and who you were with and what you felt at the time. When she was little, Eryn/Hoogie frequently wished for a special Time Machine that would allow her to rewind time, stop it, pause it … even fast forward and skip it the way you can do with a movie. We found that the books we shared together were a little like that. When Tristan (Tweezle) was little and I’d read him a worn out copy of an old favourite, Sarah (Pumpkin) and Eryn (Hoogie) would snuggle in to become part of the new reading of the book. We’d all get caught up in the story and all the time that had passed between then and our first reading evaporated for a minute. That’s what I love about being part of this industry and writing for children. I know how reading and sharing stories can change the way you feel, and make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. That’s what I want to do with my stories; be part of making family memories and be part of making people feel bigger than themselves.

Learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniemclellan.com

Word on the Street Toronto 2013

Posted on September 23rd, 2013 by pajamapress

Yesterday was the 24th annual Word on the Street festival, a day on which industry professionals and bibliophiles congregate to celebrate authors, illustrators and loads of books.

Pajama Press was well represented by Stephanie McLellan and Sue MacLeod, both of whom braved the chilly weather to read, discuss and sign their books.

A snapshot of the exciting lineup at the TD Children's Literature Tent

 

Stephanie McLellan reading Tweezle into Everything

 

Tweezle is a big boy!

 

The audience couldn't get enough of the monster siblings, Hoogie and Tweezle

 

Sue MacLeod reading an excerpt of Namesake

 

The audience came up with some insightful questions for the panel

 

Sue MacLeod explains how she got into writing YA - because Lady Jane Grey was a teen herself

 

Sue signs a book for a grateful fan

 
After a chilly but beautiful day, we’re looking forward to next year’s 25th anniversary edition!

Stephanie McLellan on the radio for Middle Child Day

Posted on August 23rd, 2013 by pajamapress

Did you know that Monday, August 12th was Middle Child Day? If you missed the occasion you can still celebrate by listening to some great middle child-themed radio.

Stephanie McLellan, author of Hoogie in the Middle, appeared on CBC’s  Metro Morning to talk about her book and about being a middle child. She was also interviewed on CBC’s Ontario Morning.

At Q107, Dominik Diamond, Ryan Parker, and Johnny Garbutt had a hilarious time reading Hoogie in the Middle and talking about it on the air.

And since every day is a good day to appreciate each other, why not show some love to a middle child in your life today? I’m sure they, like Hoogie, will feel “like the jelly in the middle of a donut…sweet.”

Tweezle into Everything “has everything that makes a picture book right” —CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on August 13th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…The trick of putting a great picture book together is telling a story that has fluency with powerful but concise text and illustrations that complement the text. Tweezle into Everything has everything that makes a picture book right.  Stephanie McLellan has found the right words for the common dilemma of the youngest child in a family, surprising readers with an unexpected plot twist to Tweezle’s story, and Dean Griffiths has again brought the less-than-scary monsters to life.  If you’re reading this to your children, make sure to have them carefully note the details in the illustrations because Dean Griffiths does not fill space; every detail enhances the story and even hints at what Tweezle is up to.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll be delighted by the turnabout in the story, and close the cover with a smile on your face, for Tweezle and others (I can’t give it away), and for Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffiths who’ve proven that big stories can come in few pages.”

—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links praises Hoogie in the Middle

Posted on July 22nd, 2013 by pajamapress

“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

Rated E: Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!

Video interview with Stephanie McLellan

Posted on June 14th, 2013 by pajamapress

Stephanie McLellan is the author of Hoogie in the Middle, published in May, 2013 by Pajama Press. In this interview she talks about writing, family, and being a middle child.

Hoogie in the Middle Book Trailer

Posted on May 14th, 2013 by pajamapress

Hoogie in the Middle by Stephanie McLellan with illustrations by Dean Griffiths was released in Canada on May 1, 2013 (US publication forthcoming in August, 2013). Readers across the county are falling in love with the magenta middle monster who feels like the hole in the middle of a donut. But what is the real story behind Hoogie in the Middle? Click the link below to watch the trailer and find out.

Hoogie in the Middle Book Trailer

The Best Parts About Being a Middle Child

Posted on May 3rd, 2013 by pajamapress

On Wednesday, May 1 Pajama Press and Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffiths published a book about me. It’s called Hoogie in the Middle. Two weeks ago I shared a bunch of pictures about The Worst Parts of Being a Middle Child. Today I’m sharing:

THE BEST PARTS OF BEING A MIDDLE CHILD

By Hoogie.

HoogieBest_BIG-AND-LITTLE HoogieBEST_BOTH WORLDS HoogieBEST_PURE ORIGINAL HoogieBEST_SECRETS HoogieBORN MEDIATOR

CanLit for LittleCanadians praises Hoogie In the Middle

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…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 K.

Click here to read the full review.

Sarah Ellis praises Hoogie in the Middle in Quill & Quire feature review

Posted on April 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

Brothers and Sisters: Two picture books touchingly explore sibling relationships through illustrations as strong as the text, writes Sarah Ellis

“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. It’s no wonder our position in the family is such a rich source of material for picture books.

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. Finally she has a meltdown, and Dad and Mom helicopter in to comfort her.

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…”
Q&Q feature reviewer SARAH ELLIS is a Vancouver author and former librarian.