The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee (9780525555452)
A little knight is very happy to be on his side of the wall. After all, there are dangerous animals on the other side as well as an ogre who would eat him up. Unfortunately, he doesn’t notice that there is water starting to fill his own side of the wall. Then large dangerous creatures start to enter too, including a snapping crocodile and big fish. Just as the water fills the entire side though, the ogre comes to his rescue and brings him to the other side of the wall. But will our little knight be devoured there too? Or perhaps the other side of the wall isn’t quite as dangerous or evil as he might have thought.
I love that this book can be read on two levels. There is the simple story of a wall in a book and then there is the political climate about walls right now in America. Agee shows that making the opposite side dangerous and “othering” them is unsafe for everyone. He also clearly demonstrates that blindly believing that we are better than others can be our own downfall. And at the same time, the picture book works incredibly well as a simple story of a little knight, a wall and an ogre.
The illustrations tell a major part of the story as the little knight does not realize what is happening. Children listening to the book will love seeing the dangers before the knight does and will likely shout warnings when this book is shared aloud.
Political and entirely pleasing, this picture book is just what we need right now. Appropriate for ages 3-7.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.
The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont
The chickens on the farm have built a wall but no one else is quite sure why. It started when the hedgehog suddenly appeared in the middle of the farm. The chickens were all very concerned about this strange new animal that quickly curled itself into a prickly ball. But most alarming was when it had disappeared the next morning. Perhaps it was after the chicks and eggs! None were missing, but that didn’t stop the hens from accusing the hedgehog of eating their worms. The rooster decided that they could not stand by and have this continue happening, so they leapt into action and built a wall. It was not just a small wall, but one that grew so high that one could not see where it ended in the sky. Can this wall save the chickens? And what is it saving them from exactly?
Dumont tells a story about flighty chickens who jump to absurd conclusions immediately about a foreign creature. The hens are frantic in their reactions, going to such lengths to protect themselves from nothing at all. Readers will see parallels between gated communities and the chickens’ wall as well as the fast judgments made about people who are different from ourselves. This would serve as a very nice book to introduce for discussions about diversity and community.
Dumont’s illustrations have a wonderful silliness to them. The chickens are pop-eyed and always moving quickly. The hedgehog is still, low and quiet. The two set each other off nicely in both the illustrations and the storyline.
Translated from the original French, this book has a universal appeal and also a clever quirkiness that adds charm. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.