In my never-ending quest for quality books that touch on social justice concepts without being too preachy and are appropriate for younger children, I came across this book and was immediately hooked. “The Wall in the Middle of the Book,” by Jon Agee is set up so that there is a wall drawn between the left and right sides of the book. The narrator, a knight, lives on one side, and he explains that the wall is there to protect him from the scary creatures on the other side, who want to eat him. Meanwhile, his side of the wall is actually becoming increasingly less safe as the story continues, and just when it can’t get any worse, he is rescued by the “dangerous” ogre from the other side of the wall, who brings him to the other side of the wall and turns out to be nice after all.
The story is short and sweet, but it really effectively shows the way that people often fear what they do not understand, and build metaphorical and physical walls to stay comfortable in their own little bubbles. The knight never tried getting to know the characters on the other side of the wall, and he assumed the worst about them. However, if he had given them a chance, he would have seen that they could coexist perfectly fine, and even be friends.
I think this story would make a great read-aloud in an elementary school classroom, or at home. It would even make an interesting read-aloud for older children who are learning about prejudice, stereotypes, and the historical outcomes of dehumanizing and “othering” members of different social classes, religions, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, etc.
- Who is telling this story?
- Why does the knight say that the wall in the middle of the book is “a good thing”?
- Something is happening on the knight’s side of the wall as the story goes on. What is it?
- What does the knight learn about the ogre at the end of the book?
- Why do you think the knight was afraid of the ogre and the animals on the other side of the wall? How did his feelings change once he got to know them?
- Did the wall end up keeping the knight safe? How do you think the knight felt about the wall at the end of the story?