When I saw the cover of today’s Perfect Picture Book and then read a review (thank you, Julie Rowan-Zoch!), I knew I had to read and review it. And with a certain wall in the news so much these days, I thought now is the right time to focus on a different type of wall:
Title: The Wall in the Middle of the Book
Written & Illustrated By: Jon Agee
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)/2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: misperceptions; wall; ogres; fear; knight
There’s a wall in the middle of the book.
And it’s a good thing.
A knight on one side of a wall fears the wild animals and ogre on the other side of the wall until he learns that maybe his side of the wall isn’t as safe as he’d imagined.
Links to Resources:
- Play 20 Questions, Charades, or another guessing game;
- The “dangerous” animals in The Wall in the Middle of the Book are afraid of a tiny mouse. Think of other small animals or insects that scare you or other larger animals or people. Why do you think these creatures are scary?
- Build a wall or fort out of building blocks, empty boxes or other stackable things you can find in your home. And then have fun tearing it down;
- Watch the book trailer.
Why I Like this Book:
Sometimes you read a book and you laugh aloud because of the humorous situation described. But then you realize that while the book may be humorous, the author is making a serious point about human nature, misperceptions, and judging others based on looks or pre-conceptions.
In The Wall in the Middle of the Book, the knight on one side of the wall uses short, declarative sentences perfect for young listeners to explain how he is safe because of the wall between him and the wild animals and ogre on the other side. Shown only in the illustrations, though, it’s clear to readers (especially observant young children), that the knight’s safety is illusory only: real danger lurks on his side of the wall. I think even the youngest of children will love watching the danger progress even as the knight talks on and on about the safety of his side of the book. And I think adult readers will love that young listeners are realizing a valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions and judging others based on appearance or other biases, especially as this is such a fun book for reading aloud.
Set against a white background, the red brick wall provides a stark division between the action occurring on the two sides. And the large, easily-identifiable animals and ogre and the friendly-faced knight are wonderful for young listeners who, I think, will follow this story easily and beg adults to read it again and again.
A Note about Craft:
Agee uses primarily first-person POV and straightforward sentences as the knight tells readers how safe he is on his side of the wall. Readers and listeners, though, can see both sides of the wall and the looming danger on the seemingly-safe side. This set up, I think, ramps up the humor and enables readers to reach the conclusion that all is not what the knight sees or thinks.
The Wall inhabits the gutter of the book, thus utilizing the “whole book” to tell the story. I think The Wall in the Middle of the Book would be a wonderful choice for Meghan Dowd Lambert’s whole book approach to story time, as so much of the story is evident only from the illustrations, and Agee utilizes the space and proportions of characters to great effect.
Finally, Agee uses humor and suspense to encourage young children to realize that preconceived beliefs can be incorrect – a truth that sometimes adults don’t heed.
Visit Agee’s website to discover more of his picture books, and read an interview with Agee about creating The Wall in the Middle of the Book.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!