“The Wall” is a constant presence in our lives these days. But something there is that doesn’t love a wall. And with his new picture book, “The Wall in the Middle of the Book,” author Jon Agee gets it. He not only gets it, he shares it, explains it for young readers, and illustrates it brilliantly.
What purpose do walls serve? In this story, the wall protects the safe world of the knight and his duck friend from the threatening animals on the other side of the wall. The wall also protects him from the dangerous ogre who lives on the other side of the wall who would eat the knight in a second.
Part of the brilliance of the illustrations is that Agee places the wall, as the title suggests, in the middle of the book. While the knight is on the “safe” side of the wall, replacing a fallen brick, unbeknownst to him, his side of the wall is becoming less safe. Young readers and old will enjoy the disparity between the text and the illustrations.
While the young knight says, “This side of the book is safe,” water is rising below him. On the other side of the wall, the gorilla, the rhino, and the tiger who had seemed so menacing, are frightened of a little mouse. The story continues to illustrate that our fears may be misplaced, and that we often do not recognize or fail to see the real dangers.
Also, if we can gather the courage to really see the other side of the wall, we may learn that the other side of the wall is safe and welcoming. It may be more like our side than we imagine, but it might be that the differences make it even better.
This is a picture book that kids will love. They will laugh at the animal antics and the ignorance of the knight. They will love the ending. It’s up to the adult reader to elicit discussion about its deeper meaning.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Dial Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.