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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Middle Bear, written by Susanna Isern and illustrated by Manon Gauthier. Kids Can Press, 2017. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"In the afternoons, his father would often go out with his older brother to gather walnuts and almonds, while his mother would nap with his younger brother. That's when he would read himself a story. A middle-sized story, like this one."

Poor middle children! They are too young to do what their older sibling can do, and too old to do what their younger sibling is allowed. They can't stay up as late as the older one, and can't go to bed as early as the little one. They are not big, nor small ... you will know all of this if you are that middle child.

Middle bear feels for you. He is all of those things, and more. Always the middle one! His clothes, his umbrella, his meals are all meant for the 'middle-sized'. It is his lot in life. Because of these many things, he is often sad. He doesn't want to be in the middle. Until one day ...

A quest to find the willow bark his parents need to cure their colds leads the brothers to the riverbank. The river is only partially frozen; it is too dangerous for both the older and the younger brother to try to cross. Not so for the middle one. He is the right weight, has the right stride, and is successful in accomplishing the task given. Off he goes to get the willow bark. Only when the task is completed does he realize that middle might be OK at times.

"At that moment, he was overcome with pride. He cut a
middle-sized piece of bark, put it in his middle-sized
backpack and, with one middle-sized step after the other,
made his way back down the mountain."

The text is bland and repetitive, in keeping with the middle bear's sense of ennui concerning his place in the family dynamic. It is perfectly written for describing how Middle Bear sees his circumstance. With the use of repetition to describe him as middle (spell mediocre), readers are painfully aware of how his life is affected.

Using collage, muted colors in black, grey and tan, and unsophisticated images that make each brother look exactly the same but for their size, Ms. Gauthier creates artwork that perfectly emphasizes the plight of the middle bear.

Middle children, rejoice! You do have your own special place in the world.

1 comment:

  1. SO excited to get my hands on this one. Middle kids need a champion (and a place to collect sympathy!) Thx for this review and heads-up.