Monday, December 2, 2013

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Clover, a young African American girl, has been told by her mama not to climb over the fence that runs through her town and separates her house from the one next store.  But now it is summer and Clover sees a white girl hanging out by the fence.  Not speaking, they simply stare at each other.

One day when Clover's friends are over, playing jump rope, the girl asks if she can play with them, but one of them just says no!

Whenever Clover sees the other girl in town, they both watch each other, but Clover thinks the other girl looks sad.  Sometimes, she sees the girl out playing in the rain by herself.

One morning, when Clover gets close to the fence, the girl asks her name and tells her that her name is Annie.  Not allowed to go over the fence, the girls decide to sit on it.  After all, they weren't told they couldn't do that.

Eventually, they ask if they can join the jump rope game that Clover's friends are playing near the fence.  And when all the girls get tired of jumping, they sit together on the fence, talking.  The story ends on a hopeful note for the future that one day the fence will be knocked down.

The purpose of a fence is to separate people, to make sure that those on either side of the fence stay where they "belong".   But, in The Other Side, it shows us how simple it is to bridge a fence, and how it can even become the site of understanding and acceptance rather than exclusion.  It made me thing of the words "And a little child shall lead them".

Clearly, in Jacqueline Woodson's story, The Other Side, the fence is a metaphor for segregation.  It is a story about race relations in this country, set in the 1950s, judging by Annie's saddle shoes and the dresses on the girls, just before the Civil Rights Movement really came into its own and began to tear long standing, racial divisive fences down.

Added to Woodson's beautiful words are the realistic watercolor illustrations of E. B. Lewis.  Lewis always pays such detail to the subject of his illustrations, and The Other Side is no different.  These important visual details help us to situate the time of the story, yet oddly enough, because no time period is actually mentioned, and despite these visual clues, Lewis manages to give the story the same timeless quality that Woodson achieves.

The Other Side will leave you feeling uplifted and hopeful.  Don't miss it!

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


  1. Fantastic recommendation! I love what you say above about "how simple it is to bridge a fence" - it sounds like such a lovely book.

    1. Thanks, Renee, this really is such a beautiful book, but then again, I am a big fan of both Jacqueline Woodson and E. B. Lewis.

  2. Replies
    1. I love the illustrations. I always look forward to books illustrated by E B Lewis.

  3. I really loved this picture book too! Thanks for a great review Alex!!!

  4. Wow,this book sounds amazing. It reminds me of a movie about a german boy that stayed in a mansion and a jewish boy that stayed in a Jewish camp during the holocaust, who had a fence that separated the two.when they met each other they soon became friends


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