The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Anticipating the reader's perplexity, a diminutive young knight breaks the fourth wall and explains why a red brick barrier bisects almost every spread in this book: "The wall protects this side of the book.../ from the other side of the book." He seems to have lucked out by occupying the left side: the right side hosts a tiger, a rhino, a gorilla and, eventually, an ogre. But as the knight climbs a ladder in order to replace a brick, readers will note his blind spot: he doesn't see that water is rising below until it's almost too late ("This is not supposed to happen on this side of the wall!"). Fortunately, the ogre reaches over the wall and yanks the knight to safety ("I'm actually a nice ogre").

Jon Agee, the author of picture book corkers like It's Only Stanley, blankets The Wall in the Middle of the Book with his customary sight gags. When the three jungle animals retreat, the attentive reader will see that it's because they're spooked by a mouse. And while the knight assumes that he has avoided only the rising waters, Agee's tidy illustrations show that the little scamp narrowly missed being devoured by a school of fish. These visual yuks serve a serious point about the folly of demonizing the "other." After all, if the knight hadn't been so busy decrying the beasts on the other side, he might have noticed the duck who wandered into his side--a harbinger of the deluge to come. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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