Poor Rosie Roselli. She's a shining young star at her Catholic school as Sister Celestia can attest but no one at home has time to notice her accomplishments. That's because she's Smack Dab in the Middle of her large Italian family, which includes grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, a sister, a brother and 12 cousins. They're all busy taking care of babies or responding to the older kids' demands and schedules.

In this classic tale of the overlooked middle child, Rosie comes home from school toting a gold star for her good counting work and a bright red horn for her musical ability, but day after day, everyone's too busy to notice. Author-illustrator Anita Riggio writes of the middle child's plight from her own experience, explaining, "Rosie Roselli really needed a hug. She needed a hug right this minute, but her mother's arms were full of Rosie's sister. Rosie Roselli couldn't wait." After several days of this type of treatment, Rosie gives up and decides to do what any self-respecting "feeling neglected" child might run away.

Of course, Rosie's story has a happy ending, and she ends up smack dab in the middle of a huge family hug. Riggio's exuberant art has a 1950s retro feel, showing teenage girls in poodle skirts, fathers in ties, Rosie with saddle shoes and kids in Mickey Mouse Club attire. Her colorful, near silhouette-style figures are done in India ink, gouache, cut paper, stamps and, last but not least, with the help of a computer. Rosie, who remains in white amidst her "colorful" family, always stands apart, the center of the book.

Sister Celestia a religious figure rarely seen nowadays in young children's books, excepting Madeleine brings to mind the effervescent Singing Nun. She's a ball of energy, realizing that Rosie is a star. When she gives her students an assignment to draw a family portrait, she saves the day for our heroine.

Smack Dab in the Middle is a book to which many children will relate, because, no matter how many or how few siblings a family contains, parents are always too busy at certain moments to lavish their kids with attention. So roll on, Rosie! The energy of this little twirling character will never be lost, even in a crowd.

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