"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Other Side

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis was published in 2001 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. The story takes place in a small town during the summer time. Our narrator explains that white people lived on the other side of their house fence. "And Mama said, 'Don't climb over that fence when you play.' She said it wasn't safe." This was definitely a historical fiction story about race. Our narrator, Clover, is outside one day when she sees a white girl sitting at the fence staring at her. She would sometimes see the girl out i public with her Mama too but the two girls were to allowed to talk to each other, though they really wanted to. One day, the girl's go up to the fence and introduce themselves as "Clover" and "Annie."

"'My mama says I shouldn't go on the other side,' I said.
'My mama says the same thing, But she never said nothing about sitting on it.'"

The girls quickly develop a friendship of fun and trust. They sit on the fence all summer and talk with one another. A group of girls stare at the two but do not participate at first. Then one day all of the girls decide to play together and have a great time. They had crossed to the other side of the fence and found friendship. My favorite part of the entire book is the last page for both text and illustration. The text reads,

"'Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down,' Annie said. And I nodded, 'Yeah,' I said. 'Someday.'" 

The fence divides the black people from the white people in town and is a metaphor for the old way of thinking that they should be separated. The girls were correct in their prediction that someday the old ways of dividing people up by race would be knocked down and instead children of all colors could play together. I also love this illustration so much because it shows the girls altogether and hanging off the fence in different ways in positions, showing their defiance to this old rule. I also love the sunset in the distance showing a new horizon is coming for these girls, and the world.

The illustrations are muted and dulled which gives them an extremely realistic feel. While reading, I felt like I was looking at real photographs. The illustrations and story seem very historically accurate. The author, Jacqueline Woodson, is an African-American woman in her 50's. She has been quoted saying, "I wanted to write about communities that were familiar to me and people that were familiar to me. I wanted to write about communities of color. I wanted to write about girls. I wanted to write about friendship and all of these things that I felt like were missing in a lot of books that I read as a child." Woodson writes about what she knows to be true, and I adore this about her. I would love to share this book with my second graders and I think students of all ages will adore this story of bravery and friendship.

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