Middle Bear

illus. by Manon Gauthier. 34p. Kids Can. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781771388429.
PreS-Gr 2—Middle Bear has a middle-size problem. "He was not big, but he was not small, either." Any middle child will recognize the situation right away. Middle Bear isn't the oldest or the youngest, or the biggest or the smallest. "He was the middle one." Depressed Middle Bear is convinced that there is nothing special about being number two. Isern introduces several synonyms such as "medium," "middling," and "middle-size" to describe Middle Bear's possessions and actions. Everything in his life is in the middle, from the size of his toys to his bedtime. Readers will sympathize with his complaint, "I don't want to be the middle one." But when Middle Bear's parents need willow bark and the brothers set off to fetch it, being the middle one may just be what saves the day. Gauthier's illustrations of cut-paper collage, pencil, and mixed media depict the experiences of the protagonist. When it rains, Middle Bear has a "middle-sized umbrella" and readers can see he is being rained on by a medium-size cloud. While fishing with his brothers, Middle Bear "manage[s] to catch the most middle-sized fish in the lake" and fish of a variety of sizes are shown. Young readers will probably want to create some collage art themselves and make their own "middle-sized story, like this one."
VERDICT A solid tale about birth order and finding one's own strengths rather than worrying about measuring up when compared with others. Recommended.

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