Kitty in the Middle Critical Context
by Judy Delton

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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

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Kitty in the Middle, Judy Delton’s first novel, is also the first book in the Kitty series, which includes a prequel, Kitty from the Start (1987), and the sequels Kitty in the Summer (1980) and Kitty in High School (1984). A prolific author, Delton also created the Angel series, including Back Yard Angel (1983), Angel in Charge (1985), Angel’s Mother’s Boyfriend (1986), and Angel’s Mother’s Baby (1989), and the popular Pee Wee Scouts books, a series of easy books for very young readers.

The Kitty books are directly descended from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy and Tib series, published in the 1940’s, including Betsy-Tacy (1940) and Betsy-Tacy and Tib (1941). The books share a Minnesota setting, a triumvirate of friends, a focus on the details of childhood, and corresponding characters. Tacy, like Mary Margaret, sports “sausage curls” and comes from a large, devout Catholic family, while Tib, like Eileen, is a no-nonsense, pampered only child. Betsy, the series’ central figure is, like Kitty, the “in-the-middle” character, a girl in the process of discovering her own identity and place in the world.

Judy Delton, like Beverly Cleary in such books as Henry Huggins (1950), Ellen Tebbits (1951), and Beezus and Ramona (1955), creates a warm, comforting, and familiar childhood world in which young readers can immerse themselves and believable characters with which they can identify. Kitty in the Middle fits snugly into this tradition of fiction that treats childhood in a realistic, insightful way, making its young readers feel at home and its older readers nostalgic for their own childhood days.