There is nothing more exciting to a self-proclaimed book nerd than a “meta” picture book that plays with form and storytelling in a truly unique way. What is "meta" fiction, you ask? A book described as “meta” is one that bends the traditional rules of storytelling, thus presenting the reader with something unique, surprising and even challenging. And so it is with the latest story by the brilliant Jon Agee, The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Folks, Agee hits a total SLAM DUNK with this one. I’ve read it a good twenty times since I’ve gotten it, and each time I read it, I find myself writing down another terrific discussion point.
In The Wall in the Middle of The Book, there is literally just that- a wall running along the gutter of the book. On one side of the wall stands a knight who proudly proclaims he is safe. The dangers, after all, live on the other side of the wall. So what exactly is on that other side? Angry animals and evil ogres, of course. What the knight doesn’t realize, however, is the rising water and the crocodile looming on his side of the wall. When the knight finds himself in need of help, the one who comes to his rescue may be a whole lot different than the knight anticipated… and the other side of the wall may possess a lot more fun than fright.
There is a heck of a lot of power packed into these pages. The interplay between the text and the illustrations is something Agee handles masterfully (he employs this same technique brilliantly in Life on Mars, one of his previous books that is still a hit in our home - check out our review HERE!). There is so much discussion to be sparked from Agee’s genius story. Most importantly, though, is the simple, underlying message The Wall in the Middle of the Book coneys: there is tremendous danger in preconceived notions. Why? Because most of the time, they are not just wrong but extraordinarily harmful! Preconceived notions become dangerous both in our classrooms and in our society, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to scale the walls we build when we are simply too frightened to address the differences we see on the other side. Whether talking to young children about exactly what they see on these pages or older kids about the symbolic nature of this book as it pertains to xenophobia and so many other issues currently plaguing our country, The Wall in the Middle of the Book speaks volumes and can be utilized with readers young and old. This is a stand out work by Agee, and a definite favorite of 2018!
Want the book? Get it here! The Wall in the Middle of the Book, by Jon Agee. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.