Book Review: “The Other Side”

In honour of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter, I am posting this blog today.

“The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson was recommended to me to study by Ann Whitford Paul. I had written to her to ask her to clarify her position on adults in picture books, and this is one of the books she suggested I study.

While this is an excellent example of children solving their own problem, I became interested in it for a different reason. It turned out to be an excellent study on racial relations, on breaking the racial barrier.

There is a fence that stretches through a town dividing the town into white and black. The main character, Clover, watches the girl in a pink sweater (Annie) who is on the other side of the fence. Both girls have been forbidden from going to the other side of that fence. But neither girl has been forbidden from sitting on top of the fence. And so that is where the rather unlikely start of a friendship occurs.

The conclusion is rather hopeful: someday somebody is going to knock down the fence, the girls say. And yes, someday somebody did, but it was only through friendships such as this one in the book that made it possible.

Still there is an invisible fence in some people’s minds, so books like this continue to remain important.