Maudie in the Middle
A book review for parents
This family life book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Lura Schield Reynolds is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Books and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Maudie, whose only claim to fame is being born in the year 1900, is stuck as a middle child in her family. The three older siblings get to do exciting things, and her three younger ones get all the attention. Maudie craves her parents' recognition, but her tendency toward bad behavior often earns her the wrong kind of notice. Only after her uncle dies and her parents are forced to spend a month away from home does Maudie grow into her own unique role in the family.
Maudie's family regularly attends church, sings hymns for enjoyment, has family devotions and invites church people — such as the preacher and his wife — over for Sunday dinner. When the church has its annual foot-washing ceremony (complete with the Lord's Supper re-enactment), Maudie decides this is her opportunity to be forgiven and to start being a better child. She talks about humbling herself as Jesus did with His disciples. Though Maudie accidentally sleeps through the ceremony, Mother washes her feet at home, and Maudie feels forgiven. Their denomination isn't mentioned, but Maudie talks with one of her brothers about how they are baptized when they're 12.
Maudie's mother and father work long, hard hours and do their best to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of their seven children. Aunt Sylvie, who lives with the family, often gives Maudie the special attention she craves. Miss Richardson, the town's teacher, is Maudie's role model. She's attentive to her students and makes Maudie feel good about her abilities. Brother and Sister Bliss, the minister and his wife, often compliment Maudie and her siblings on their behavior in church. Maudie compares herself to Sister Bliss and feels she could never be that good.
Other Belief Systems
Maudie names the family's new foal Lucky because it was lucky to be alive after its mother died giving birth to it.
Father says dang once.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why does Maudie think Aunt Sylvie is getting married?
- What does Aunt Sylvie's marriage make Maudie determined to do?
- How would you define bad behavior, such as lying and stealing?
Does going against the Ten Commandments always lead to negative consequences?
- What kinds of bad situations do you find yourself in that are beyond your control?
- Were they a result of your actions or someone else's?
Can bad things happen to you when it's not your fault?
- What chores do you enjoy the least?
How do you think the chores you're expected to do compare to Maudie's chores?
- Maudie thinks being the middle child causes her problems.
What are some good and bad things about being who you are in your family, the (first, second, third, etc.) child?
- When Lester took Maudie's perfume, she chose to let him get himself in trouble instead of telling on him.
Tell about someone who has done something wrong to you. Did the person get away with it or did he end up suffering for it?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.