Quote of the Month

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

Monday, March 29, 2021

You Had No Say

Unless you are an only child, you've experienced the roller coaster ride of sharing your world with a younger or older, sister or brother.  If you are the oldest child in the family, it seems as though you are expected to be the example of propriety.  When something goes wrong, you are blamed in part, even if you are totally innocent.  On the other hand, you are given privileges and opportunities your younger siblings are not.  If you are the youngest child, many times you are your parents' little sweetie pie, unable to do anything wrong. Unfortunately, you hear too many times, wait until you are older.

To be the middle child is an entirely separate experience.  It usually does not offer you any privileges or any protections.  The Middle Kid (Chronicle Books, March 23, 2021) written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg presents a day in the life of a middle child.  In between bursts of laughter, you will reach a new appreciation for all middle children or if you, like Steven Weinberg, are a middle child, you'll find validation.

6:59 AM

Sniffle, sniffle-waaaaaaa . . .

So begins a decidedly noisy day.  The quietest one in the group, and still oblivious to the surrounding sounds, is the family dog.  Not wanting to stay silent any longer, the middle kid yells out a greeting.

The breakfast table is a hullabaloo centered in demands.  The results are not good for the artwork of the middle kid.  By chapter three of nine, he is told by his older brother to be tough.  What the older brother fails to tell him is how dark and confining this lesson is.

The next scenario demonstrates how a teacher's adventures on a trip to New Zealand can find their way into a creative escapade with stuffed toy animals, yarn, and a bannister.  Needless to say, what is initially a joint project between the middle kid and his younger sister, ends poorly.  Shortly after midday and chapter four and one half, life improves.

A compassionate mom has a plan.  It is a breather trip to the middle kid's favorite place.  And then, off he and his siblings go to do one of his favorite things.  He is perfect to explore their recent discovery.  Now, he has a secret that is all his.  A popsicle incident does not add up, but this does not deter our intrepid artist and architect.  His finest hour is designed to draw attention, the right kind of attention.  And it does.  Good night.  Sleep tight.

With affectionate truth, author Steven Weinberg, spins a sixty-two-page tale of navigating sibling dynamics.  To create and maintain pacing and gentle tension, each chapter heading includes a specific time of day.  These short chapters are full of blended realistic dialogue and casual narrative. Here is a passage.


This morning, my big brother tells me, "You gotta
be tough."

 "I AM!" I yell.

"No," he says.  "You are loud.  Loud is not tough."
I turn around.  I have things to draw.

He grabs my shoulder and says, "I will teach you
how to be tough.  Because I am tough.  And I have
your back."

That might be the nicest thing he has ever told me.

Then he stops looking so nice.

The front of the dust jacket speaks volumes about the fate of being a middle kid in this happy-go-lucky family.  You can't help but laugh at the fact even the dog gets a slice of pizza!  The clever design of using the pizza box as a placeholder for the text adds to the fun.  Numerous elements are varnished.

To the left, on the back, is a portion of a double-page interior picture.  The middle kid is enjoying some alone time in the basement, papers, books, crayons, scissors, and shoes spread across the floor.  He has drawn a masterpiece mix of reality and imagination.  It is the ultimate sanctuary.

Beneath the dust jacket, the book case is a recreation of a traditional black-and-white-speckled composition notebook.  In the larger framed square is the book's title.  For name it reads Steven Weinberg.  For school, it is Lafayette Elementary, and the grade is First.  Each is written in different colored crayon.

On the matching opening and closing endpapers are two original pages from the composition notebook.  In pencil are words of warning, scribbles and a large x.  With a page turn at the front the middle kid is carrying an armload of supplies with the faithful dog trailing behind and looking hopeful at a discarded shoe.  The dedication:

To My Big Brother and little Sister 

is written in crayon.  On the title page there is a lot happening as the three siblings and the pooch pal gather around a rug on the floor, paper written in crayon spelling out the text. The table of contents and introduction are written on composition pages.

The illustrations

were rendered in watercolor, pencil, art from a few centuries ago, digital media, and a whole lot more.

They are bold, highly animated, emotionally expressive and displayed in a variety of perspectives.  The facial features, especially the eyes, allow us to gage every moment.  Steven has placed his signature watercolor backgrounds in many of the images along with his fish and fishing artwork.  Bengal, the tiger, looks a bit different because he is.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  The middle kid, his little sister, and the dog are on the floor behind the upstairs bannister.  The little sister is crying in dismay.  The dog has its paws over its eyes.  The middle kid in the center is gleefully throwing Bubba, Bo, and Fred over the railing.  Bengal is about to join them.  Bubba, Bo, and Fred are large at the bottom of the page.  They are so close; portions of their bodies are off the page.  One of Steven's beautiful fish paintings is hanging on the wall on the main floor.

You will be grinning from ear to ear the entire time you are reading The Middle Kid written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg.  It's a warm and funny family portrait, with a heartfelt nod to all those middle children.  I highly recommend it for your collections, personal and professional.

To learn more about Steven Weinberg and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Steven Weinberg has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Steven Weinberg penned a guest post about this book at the Nerdy Book Club.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely going to have to read this book - I'm a middle and it sounds like Weinberg has really captured what that is like.