Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Middle-Child Blues

By Kristyn Crow and illustrated by David Catrow

Putnam Juvenile, 2009

$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

If you have a middle child, you are a middle child or you just want to read the best new rhyme around, this book is for you.

Crow and Catrow pay tribute to all of those who feel "in-between," "hardly noticed," "hardly seen," with text and pictures that will make you laugh as they inspire those of us with more than two children to think about how we raise our middle child.

Lee, the middle child of three, has the forgotten and confused middle-child blues. He sees his little sister Kate getting out of responsibility and his older brother Ray getting more privilege. "Ray can order a 'Big Bun,' / Kate's meal has a toy. / I get a plain cheeseburger / since I'm just the middle boy."

And later, in the quintessential comparison that many siblings do, he relates his place in the family to a train. "I'm not the shiny engine / or the little red caboose. / I'm just a boring boxcar, / so I wonder, what's the use?"

But even though Lee has this curse he didn't choose, he finds an outlet for his frustration. He puts his woes to lyrics and woos a crowd of middle children who share his blues.

Soon TV crews show up and just as he swoons that he wishes his folks had a clue, they join in the singing and proclaim they're middle children too. They just forgot, they say, to which Lee plucks his guitar and smiles then struts off stage to the middle of his family's car for a middle-child snooze.

Crow's insights into being a middle child are spot-on (she has three middle children of her own to learn from) and her text combines a perfect rhythm with an irresistible beat, while Catrow's wild and crazy illustrations match Lee's rocking-out personality.

If you're like me, you might find yourself singing as you read and imagine the deep twang of a bass guitar as the book begins.

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