As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
Take away the painfully obvious reference to Trump’s wall, and what do you have? A dull story.
This is another classic case of the message getting in the way of the telling.
The book has a fair amount of negative white space, which is a good thing. However, what is there isn’t much; The Wall reads like a Dick and Jane basal reader, and the illustrations are ho-hum (or fee-fi-fo-fum).
That said, using the physical structure of the actual book to serve as the brick wall in the middle of the book is clever and the best part of it.
As I read this, I found myself not enjoying the story but rather trying to figure out what the author meant when the large (and typically scary) animals on the other side (who are trying to climb over the wall) freak out over a mouse, instantly making these rotund, exotic animals (who are more or less indigenous to the African continent) less scary.
The missing brick, for me, represented that no matter how good a firewall (or a border wall <cough, cough>) is, there is always a way around it (or under it, etc.).
About halfway through, the little knight is proclaiming how safe his side of the wall is while his side turns more and more treacherous the higher he climbs up the wall. The animals disappear, and now there is a giant (seemingly scary) ogre on the other side. However, the boy is so focused on how safe his side is and how unsafe the other side is that he doesn’t notice the dangers on his side until it’s almost too late, and the ogre saves him.
My take? The water levels rising below the little knight with a shark ready to make a snack out of him represent global warming and Americans involved with child trafficking.
The other side of the wall is portrayed as downright “fantastic”—where ogres are lifeguards and wild animals are herbivorous and there is only imagined danger. Apparently, people risk their lives to go to the little knight’s side because it’s so good on their side and not on his, and drug cartels are a myth. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to escape from that.
The Wall in the Middle of the Book is not a terrible book; it’s not just a terribly interesting one.
Suggested activity: Most every child has an activity table (horizontal surface); let them have a wall (vertical surface) to mess up. Put up a whiteboard wall or paint a chalkboard one.