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Davy in the Middle
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by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet

Brigitte Weninger's Davy in the Middle tells a tail that children – and especially middle children – will readily understand. Davy is too young to do some things (like hiking in the mountains with his older brother Dan), and too old or too big for other things (like playing "hop-on-pop" with Dad). Davy is, however, just the right age to play with and help take care of his younger sister Dinah. In a word, Davy feels unappreciated. Although he loves his sister Dinah, he gets the work of taking care of her with none of the fun that his other sisters are having.

 

When baby Dinah reports that Davy has gone into his secret hideout with a cry of "'Nobody loves me,'" Father quickly perceives Davy's plight. The family quickly concocts a plan for a Davy appreciation time.

 

Eve Tharlet's inviting, earth-toned color palette (soft greens and warm browns) lend a note of realism to the rabbit family's environment. Her deft, anthropomorphic illustrations bring out the characters' feelings: Davy looks frustrated, ashamed, angry, and sad by turns. I wondered, however, about certain elements. Tharlet portrays two younger siblings plus the father physically removing a large, heavy-looking wooden door from the doorway (holding the door), rather than having the door open on hinges. Also, Tharlet's choice of colors for distinguishing the characters is confusing: Father wears a pink- and salmon-colored neck scarf with animal prints on it, while mother wears a blue collar. Dinah, Daisy, Donny and Dan – all of the siblings except Davy – wear blue scarves or kerchiefs around their necks. Davy – perhaps to distinguish him – wears a red kerchief around his neck.

 

One personal annoyance about the translation is Dinah's baby talk, e.g., "Davy's cwying! He says no one wuvs him!" This language makes one wonder whether the original contained similar baby talk. I also wonder why the translator felt it necessary to change protagonist's name from Pauli to Davy and whether the translator changed the siblings' names. I also wonder whether the translator put a spin on the book that the author did not intend. The original title, Grosser Pauli, kleiner Pauli [Big Pauli, Little Pauli], does not necessarily imply that Pauli/Davy is the middle child, as the translated title, Davy in the Middle, implies. Indeed, Tharlet's illustrations make it difficult to distinguish whether Davy is, in fact, the middle child or second eldest. While the eldest, Dan, is always bigger in size than Davy, Donny is sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller.

 

Weninger understands the middle child's plight and how to make the middle child feel appreciated. I recommend this book for any family whose child or children are feeling too old or not old enough.

 

 

Weninger, Brigitte. 2004. Davy in the Middle. Illus. Eve Tharlet. New York: North-South Books. Originally published in German as Grosser Pauli, kleiner Pauli.  ISBN 0-7358-1934-3.

 

-Dawn Dickey

5/17/07

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