Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, July 8, 2019


If you are the youngest or the oldest in your family, at school or your workplace or even in an array of places in the public arena, you know there are advantages and disadvantages in both circumstances.  These benefits and detriments will shift and change with time.  It's a distinct possibility when younger you often wish to be older or bigger, but once you are older and bigger, you can't turn back the clock.  Eventually we all discover each age and our place in it is to be appreciated.

Regardless of where you are or who you are with, if there are more than two, there is at least one who cannot claim to be the youngest or oldest.  This individual is in a distinct position.  Bunny in the Middle (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, July 2, 2019) lovingly created by author Anika A. Denise with illustrations by her husband Christopher Denise is an endearing tribute to all children whose years number not lower or higher than the others but are perfectly in-between the two.

When you're in the middle . . .
you're not the oldest
and you're not the youngest.  

You have the ability to help and the promise of help when you need it.  Sometimes being in the middle demands you take a stand to protect what you have.  Other times being in the middle requires you to give up something you value.  You have the gift of knowing.

You, as an in-between being, will be looked to as a leader.  In other instances, it is better to follow.  With this understanding comes the wisdom to be alone when necessary. 

There are unavoidable situations as a middle individual.  It's not often you get brand new things when those from older sibling will suffice.  Having your own room is entirely out of the question.  (Sometimes you wonder if sharing isn't your secret middle name.)

All these occasions can be experienced with compassion because as a middle you have more than one thing the youngest and oldest don't have.  This knowledge gives you the best of both worlds.  It gives you what every heart desires.

Using eleven wonderfully paced and spaced sentences Anika A. Denise composes a story of comfort and contentment.  With great care she presents instances in which readers will readily identify not only as a middle, but as the youngest or oldest.  Her word choices present a melodic, soothing cadence. Here is a single sentence.

When you're in the middle . . .

you know when to hold on,

when to let go . . .

and how to solve sticky situations.

You simply cannot look at the matching dust jacket and book case without inwardly or outwardly sighing.  These three bunnies balancing on a log bridge are utterly enchanting.  Their clothing, body positions and facial expressions are inviting.  We want to join them as part of this picturesque summer afternoon.  The soft texture and intricate details in the artwork here (and throughout the book) by Christopher Denise further enhance each moment.  This illustration continues along the spine.

To the left, on the back, on a sky-blue canvas, the siblings are seated together in a large overstuffed floral-patterned armchair.  The oldest is reading a copy of Hop Stars.  The middle child is looking at readers and waving one paw.  Looking at a stuffed teddy bear dropped on the floor, is the youngest child.

The opening and closing endpapers are a glorious summer scene in a lush green meadow filled with daisies.  The characters are placed near the top of the pages.  In the first on the left the youngest and middle are together looking intently at a butterfly.  The oldest one, on the right, with one paw casually on her hip, is watching them. On the closing endpapers the butterfly has moved to the right.  The youngest bunny is still on the left but is now holding a bouquet of daisies.  The middle and oldest child are watching the butterfly.  They are each holding a few blossoms.

The illustrations were rendered

with paper and pencil, Adobe Photoshop; and Procreate on iMac and iPad.  The artist also used an Apple Pencil and Wacom tablet.

On heavier paper, using white space with excellence, the images span two pages and single pages.  Each one welcomes readers to pause and become further acquainted with the characters and the settings in which they live.  Christopher Denise varies his points of view to enhance the text and pacing.  He brings us close to the bunnies but then moves back to let us see the larger area where they reside.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations (I love them all!) is for the final phrase in the sentence previously noted.  The three bunnies have made pink frosting for the baked cupcakes.  We are close to them.  On the right there is a portion of the interior of their home with sunlight shining in a window.  Otherwise the canvas is mostly white with some pale, pale green as light reflecting from the walls.  On the left, wearing the newly acquired white chef's hat is the youngest bunny standing on a chair and ready to scoop out frosting with one paw.  A red-and-white checkered towel and sifter is near her.  The large bowl crosses the gutter and extends nearly to the right edge.  There standing on a chair behind the bowl is the middle bunny with closed eyes, holding a wooden spoon and licking the pink frosting on it.  Bending over the bowl with a spatula in her paw is the oldest bunny on the far right and more in the foreground.

As Anika states in the end flap

"We created Bunny in the Middle . . . to celebrate the unique, sometimes challenging experience of being in the middle.  Middle kids are often sensitive, thoughtful, brave, peacemakers, risk-takers . . . the dear ones. 

Anika A. Denise as author and Christopher Denise as artist have completely and with much affection given us a book that wraps us in a hug.  No matter where you are, youngest, middle or oldest, you will be charmed by these three bunnies and especially by the one in the middle.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  This is a book to share repeatedly.

To learn more about Anika A. Denise and Christopher Denise, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Both have links to blogs from their websites.  Anika A. Denise has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Christopher Denise has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Anika A. Denise is interviewed at Critter Lit.  At the publisher's website several interior images are there for you to view.

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