THE HOLE IN THE MIDDLE
Author: Budnitz, Paul
Illustrator: Kakeda, Aya
This charming story about friendship, a debut effort for both author and illustrator, succeeds with a chatty tone and appealing cartoon-style illustrations. Morgan is a boy with a hole in his midsection; you can see right through it, and it causes an empty feeling no matter what he’s doing or how much he eats. His best friend, Yumi, tries to help by making strawberry cake, taking his mind off it with play and suggesting he just forget about it, but nothing works until, in a reversal of roles, Yumi gets sick and needs his help. Alert readers will notice even before Morgan does that the hole in his tummy gets smaller and smaller the more he focuses on Yumi rather than himself. Morgan and Yumi’s caring friendship is warmly portrayed, and the fact that they help each other solve problems (there are no adults here) encourages young readers’ budding initiative and self-sufficiency. The colorful, cheerful spreads depict all sorts of amusements and feature whimsical details that add to the brief text; it’s fun to try to spot the robot toy and the doll with a flower-shaped face that accompany Morgan and Yumi, respectively, through their adventures. Focusing on the needs of others is a time-honored solution for those dissatisfied with their own lot in life; here is a motivating parable for contemporary kids. (Picture book. 3-6) — Kirkus Review.
The Hole in the Middle
Paul Budnitz, illus. by Aya Kakeda. Disney-Hyperion
Kidrobot founder Budnitz and graphic artist Kakeda debut with a surreal tale about “a boy named Morgan, who was born with a hole in his middle. The hole was so big, you could see straight through him, from front to back.” Morgan suffers from “a strange, empty feeling,” and the circular, cookie cutter–shaped gap is large enough that his friend Yumi bats a badminton birdie through it. Budnitz quietly implies the hole is related to an innate self-centeredness (early on, Morgan eats an entire cake Yumi bakes for him, and he sings “all the solos” when they rock out together). In flattened cartoons dancing with whimsical dots, stripes, toadstools, and enormous flowers, Kakeda pictures a glum Morgan whose frown droops even more when he learns Yumi is ill. His mood lifts, though, when he bakes Yumi a get-well cake and visits her. As he devotes himself to cheering a friend, the hole shrinks until “it looked exactly like a belly button.” The combination of Kakeda’s optimistic pictures and Morgan’s odd attribute make this resemble a Charles Burns comic for a junior crowd. Ages 3–6. (June)