“Little Tweezle, baby brother from Hoogie in the Middle (Pajama Press, 2013), reviewed here on April 24, 2013, has his own issues with birth order, that being his relegation to baby of his monster family–too small and too young to do much of anything. As much as his parents adore him, he doesn’t want to be a baby boy anymore–he wants to be a big boy! In fact, when he gets into the garden shed, the dish water and his sisters’ things, his refrain is, “I big.” His family is not pleased by the messes he leaves behind, including holes in the yard, muddy footprints and taking things that don’t belong to him, but his surprise intent and achievement have everyone applauding Tweezle for his big ideas, beyond anything they could have imagined for this little one.
“The trick of putting a great picture book together is telling a story that has fluency with powerful but concise text and illustrations that complement the text. Tweezle into Everything has everything that makes a picture book right. Stephanie McLellan has found the right words for the common dilemma of the youngest child in a family, surprising readers with an unexpected plot twist to Tweezle’s story, and Dean Griffiths has again brought the less-than-scary monsters to life. If you’re reading this to your children, make sure to have them carefully note the details in the illustrations because Dean Griffiths does not fill space; every detail enhances the story and even hints at what Tweezle is up to. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be delighted by the turnabout in the story, and close the cover with a smile on your face, for Tweezle and others (I can’t give it away), and for Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffiths who’ve proven that big
stories can come in few pages.” – Helen Kubiw
Stephanie McLellan’s revisits the monster family that she introduced in Hoogie in the Middle and explores the roles children play in terms of birth order in Tweezle into Everything. This story focuses on the youngest monster, Tweezle, and the trouble he seems to attract. Tweezle may be the youngest, but like many young children learning how to navigate the world, he fights with the idea that he’s still a baby.
The story starts by introducing the family. Pumpkin is the eldest, Hoogie is in the middle, and Tweezle is the infuriating younger brother. Tweezle tries to be a big boy by doing the dishes with a “Splash and a crash”, or he tries to help with the gardening, “Blam and a slam.”
Poor Tweezle can’t seem to make anyone in his family happy as his efforts to enhance his sister’s art and play in his brother’s room are the source of fights that any parent with multiple children can relate to. Then one night after dinner, Tweezle goes missing, and the family searches the house and backyard for him only to find that the backyard has been dug up, and Pumpkin’s basket and Hoogie’s blanket are missing. When the family follows the tiny muddy footprints to the source, they find that Tweezle has been nursing a fallen baby bird back to health. The family celebrates Tweezle’s good deed, and he feels a little more grown up.
Tweezle into Everything is a great book for young children. It can be used to help young children who may be struggling with the challenges of not being able to do what older siblings can do, or for slightly older children who have younger siblings. The clear language and straightforward plot make it easily comprehendible for young children. Dean Griffiths has illustrated the book in bright, cheery colours that will appeal to young eyes and hold their attention. There is quite a bit of detail in the illustrations which can invite interaction with the storyteller and the child.
Overall, Tweezle into Everything would make a great addition to any bookshelf. It tackles the real-life issues of age and the challenges of birth order for both older and younger children, and it can be used as a great tool for teaching empathy.
Rhiannon Jones is a health librarian at the University of Calgary.
Hoogie in the Middle and Tweezle into Everything
Award-winning author Stephanie McLellan has drawn inspiration from her own three children and created Hoogie in the Middle, a sneak peek into the world surrounding Hoogie, the middle child. The author playfully uses rhythm, alliteration and similes to delineate Hoogie’s character and exhibit how the middle child feels: “Pumpkin is the big, big girl,” “Tweezle is the itty, bitty baby” and “[Hoogie] feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.”
Whatever Hoogie does is not right. When Tweezle squishes food, “Everyone laughs.” When Hoogie does it, she is told to “not be such a baby.” Similarly, she is “too small” to help dad. “Too big. Too small. No room for me at all,” sums up the pain she feels. In the end just like “the sun in the middle of the solar system,” Hoogie isn’t so invisible anymore. McLellan finishes her story with a deliciously sweet simile!
Continuing in this series, Tweezle into Everything follows in the footsteps of the typical baby of the household where Tweezle is the “last yummy cookie.” Charming similes and playful dialogue express Tweezle’s adorable character, constantly trying to prove he is big: “I not baby…I big boy!” He believes he is all grown up he messes his father’s tool shed, or enhances his older sister’s paintings. However, Tweezle is made to feel like the “…mud on the bottom…” of his sister’s shoes. Yet he refuses to give up: “I not bottom.” The book has an unpredictable and heart-warming ending, showing that what Tweezle unexpectedly does is indeed a “big deal.”
This loveable family comes alive with Dean Griffiths cuddly personified monsters. Vibrating hues painted in pencil crayons and watercolours evoke an expressionistic style with realistic elements. The clever use of negative space adds dimension and energy to the characters as well. Consistent rendering makes switching from each book in the series a seamless transition. The difference is the focus on the title characters, e.g. Hoogie holding a donut over one eye exaggerating the fact that she feels “like the hole in the middle of the donut” or Tweezle holding a large beach ball reinforcing his babyish stature.
Hoogie in the Middle and Tweezle into Everything explore the wonder of childhood and the average day-to-day dilemmas and real-life emotions of children with siblings. Wonderful books to read aloud that provide an opportunity for discussion among parents and children.
“A most beautifully written and illustrated book about a little boy monster who lives with his parents and big brother and sister. To the family Tweezle seems like a little troublemaker but in reality he only wants to help out doing big kid stuff like his siblings.
“Being the baby of the family, Tweezle tries to do the things big kids do but always gets into trouble because he is too little. Stuff gets broken and a lot of messes need to be cleaned up but Tweezle doesn’t mean to be a troublemaker. When he finds a baby bird in trouble and fixes a nest for it, his family realizes that Tweezle means well and that he is growing up and not just a baby.
“This book would be a helpful tool to read to an older sibling in preparation of a newcomer in the family. It could help explain to small children what happens when a new smaller child tries to play with them that sometimes they cannot do the same things as they do.”
“My 9 year-old son and I thought this book was absolutely adorable! And for several good reasons. Firstly, the author deftly uses metaphors and creative language to bring alive a time in a child’s life that signifies growing up changes. Tweezle is the youngest of three, a toddler, in the cute and colorful monster family. His family think he can be annoying sometimes–”You’re the lint at the bottom of my pocket!” Pumpkin yells–but mischievous Tweezle has a mind of his own and proves he is growing up when his idea to help a small friend in need succeeds.
“Secondly, the portraits of family life in this book, from sibling spats to moments of parental affection are realistic, endearing and attractive to youngsters, including my son who is a middle-grader but was enchanted when reviewing this book with me. We read it twice, pointing to things we loved and laughing at the comical situations and illustrations of Tweezle’s troublemaking.
“We also loved the illustrations by Dean Griffiths. My son likes to look at the facial expressions of characters, and there are plenty in this book. They are so well portrayed, from the look of older sibling know-it-all to the mother’s not-again look of frustration, this book is a delight to read and peruse for little ones and older ones alike. The second time we looked through the book, my son noticed little clues in the pictures that led to Tweezle’s actions. Kids always seem to notice things grown-ups miss!
“This heartwarming story celebrates the youngest member of a family beautifully. It’s a story that every child with an older or younger sibling can relate to. Highly recommended!”
Note: This book is rated C = clean read.
Reviewed by Laura & Son
“Tweezle is the smallest one in the family. But for someone so small, Tweezle has some pretty big ideas. Nobody’s going to call him a baby anymore!
“Tweezle into Everything by Stephanie McLellan with illustrations by Dean Griffiths (Pajama Press) is the follow up to Hoogie in the Middle. In the monster family, Tweezle is the youngest and as the title suggests, he keeps getting into everything. But he doesn’t want to be seen as the baby of the family; he wants to prove that he’s a big boy.
“As the eldest child in my family, I may not be qualified to comment specifically on the youngest-child experience… However, I think Tweezle into Everything does a great job of demonstrating every child’s desire to be taken seriously and not be treated like a baby. I especially like how it subtly points out how the adjectives we use when talking to children, like “little”, can challenge their young identities.
“Not only will the message in this cute story win over the youngsters in your life, but the illustrations are sure to capture their attention and imaginations. Bursting with colour and movement, the pictures of the monster family are a lot of fun. I love how bright they are!
“Also, Tweezle’s mission to show he is a big boy by rescuing a baby bird offers a great opportunity to open up a conversation with your child about what to do if they should find a baby animal in need.
“Tweezle into Everything is a wonderful family read, especially for young children who may be struggling with either being the youngest, or having a young sibling who always seems to be getting into everything.” – Danielle Webster
—Krista Welz, North Bergen High School, NJ
Kirkus Reviews – November 13/13
Tweezle is tired of being the baby monster of the family. He’s a big boy now—and has some not-so-helpful ways of showing it!
McLellan and Griffiths’ previous work, Hoogie in the Middle (2013), had middle monster Hoogie feeling invisible and frustrated. Now Tweezle takes a stand against his birth order. Everyone calls him “little,” but he wants to do something BIG. He tries to help in the kitchen, but the dishes crash to the floor. He tries to help outdoors, but he ends up knocking everything over in the shed. His sisters shout at him: “You’re the lint at the bottom of my pocket!” and “The mud on the bottom of my sneakers!” After this, little Tweezle mysteriously goes missing. His family finds him helping a baby bird that has fallen from the nest. Tweezle has had a big idea after all. Although furry, green and whiskered, Tweezle shares many commonalities with toddlers who are gaining independence. Older siblings in particular will recognize the ways Tweezle’s good intentions sometimes work against him.
…[T]his tale about an endearing monster family spotlights some very real moments of childhood growth. (Picture book. 3-6)