As Grimes’ illustrated debut shows, it’s hard enough to be a kid, but when you’re the middle child in a family of nine, you might as well be invisible.
“Who forgets their kid?” Pidge grouses as she sits alone at a restaurant. “A family with too many kids, that’s who.” Mom rushes back in, apologetic, but the damage has been done. Back home and feeling neglected, Pidge decides to run away. She’ll slide down the laundry chute and sneak out the back door, she decides. But Pidge hadn’t counted on the quantity of laundry a large family produces: her exit is blocked by her brother’s football pads, and as she sits there trying to figure out what to do next, she’s bombarded by more sports equipment, a ballet tutu, a baby blanket, and more. For a while, Pidge almost enjoys her imprisonment—there’s a bag of candy someone accidentally threw down the chute and a book—but before long, she misses her family. In search of both physical and emotional warmth, she dresses herself in their laundry items. Finally, it’s the dog, Maverick, who sniffs her out, but it turns out that everyone has been looking for her—and every member of the family has felt her absence in a different way. “Without you in the middle,” says Mom, “we fall apart!” And Dad adds, “Being in the middle means there are people on all sides to love you.” The funny storyline, solid writing, and clever design of Grimes’ book help keep such statements from being just platitudes. Yes, there are exasperations that go along with having a big family—you don’t always get to choose when to be alone or together, and sometimes it’s hard to know whose stuff is whose—but in the end, Pidge seems to realize, these things are pleasures as much as they are pains. Both Grimes’ writing—much of it driven by Pidge’s internal dialogue—and DeOre’s cartoon illustrations are polished, spirited, and perfectly matched to the picture book’s audience. But it’s the creative typographical design that really makes the book stand out: the “thump thump thump” of Pidge stomping up the stairs is a jumble of boldfaced capital letters suggesting both the noise and the shape of the stairs themselves; the “swoosh plop darkness” that accompanies the tutu down the laundry chute has a balletic twirl and sibilance that puts the reader right there in the laundry chute, blindfolded by layers of tulle.
A funny story, a reassuring message, and
a clever, creative design; highly recommended.