“Peanut Butter in the Middle” by Stephanie Lombardi-Terranova is a pleasant children’s book that shows the struggles of being the middle child through the eyes of a young boy. Written in short, rhyming lines, the book follows the boy’s day-to-day routine and his feelings of being left out or overshadowed by his older sister and younger brother.
The handwritten illustrations bring an endearing quality to book. Its colors and details add to the story’s charm and a personal touch, making it feel like a cherished, homemade treasure. In addition, the author has done quite a job of capturing the emotions of the middle child, and young readers will be able to relate to the protagonist’s experiences.
The writer understands family dynamics and uses a sense of humor to grasp them. Her style is an honest yet nuanced reflection on being a middle child that includes a range of emotions—loneliness, frustration, amusement—in just a few short lines.
As you go along, the book beautifully unravels the feelings of being stuck between an older and a younger sibling—touching on themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, and the need for attention, all everyday struggles for children. We are reminded of how tricky life can be when you’re stuck in between– and how differences may create some tension. However, it also encourages children to find their own way of dealing with these emotions—of being overlooked and forgotten yet always feeling the need to cause some mischief to get noticed. For example, when the sister and the baby seem to always take center stage, the boy reflects, “Here I am stuck in the middle, I guess. I’ll find some trouble.”
It’s a heartwarming and relatable story that will resonate with many children, particularly middle children. Its sweetness will touch many who have experienced childhood struggles with its lessons about family bonds… reminding us why having brothers or sisters is an important part of growing up. If you’re looking for a light-hearted children’s book with plenty of fun and warmth, then I highly recommend Peanut Butter in the Middle.
– The Moving Words Review
Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024