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THE OTHER SIDE by Jacqueline Woodson


by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Age Range: 5 & up

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23116-1
Publisher: Putnam

Race relations, a complex issue, is addressed in a simple manner through the eyes of two young girls, one black and one white, on either side of a fence that divides their yards and, in fact, the town. Both girls have been instructed not to go on the other side of the fence because it’s not safe. Each stares at the other, yearning to know more, but they don’t communicate. When Annie, the white girl, climbs on the fence and asks to jump rope, she is told no by the leader of the black group. The narrator, Clover, has mixed feelings and is unsure whether she would have said yes or no. Later, the girls, with their mothers, meet on the sidewalk in town, looking very much the same, except for the color of their skin. When asked why the mothers don’t talk, the explanation is, “because that’s the way things have always been.” During the heavy summer rains, Annie is outside in her raincoat and boots, having fun splashing in puddles—but Clover must stay inside. When the rains stop, Clover is set free, emerging as a brave soul and approaching Annie in the spirit of her freedom. Eventually, the story finds both girls and all of Clover’s friends sitting on the fence together, kindred spirits in the end. “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down,” Annie says. What a great metaphor Woodson has created for knocking down old beliefs and barriers that keep people apart. Children learn that change can happen little by little, one child at a time. Award-winning Lewis’s lovely realistic watercolor paintings allow readers to be quiet observers viewing the issue from both sides. (Picture book. 5+)