A little bear discovers the benefits of being the middle one when his medium size works to his advantage.
The “second of three brothers,” middle bear’s neither largest nor smallest, tallest nor shortest, strongest nor weakest. Even his clothes and toys are “middle-sized.” He eats and drinks middle-sized portions and goes to bed “before his older brother and after his younger.” Often sad, the middle bear does not “want to be the middle one” until the day his sick parents send their three sons on a quest to a high mountain for willow bark. Reaching a partially frozen river, the oldest brother’s too heavy and the youngest brother’s too little to cross the ice. Just the right size, the middle bear successfully traverses the river, scales the mountain, and returns with the willow bark. Repeated use of “middle-sized” emphasizes the disadvantages as well as the advantages of being a middle child. Cut-paper collage, pencil, and mixed-media illustrations rely on a subdued palette of black, gray, and tan to convey the blandness of the middle bear’s life. Drawn with childlike simplicity, the brother bears seem visually identical (except for size) and usually appear together until the middle bear happily takes center page alone, suddenly aware “he could do all sorts of things.”
A neatly pitched lesson for the middle child. (Picture book. 4-7)