A wall separates the two sides of a book. But what happens when there is danger on the side that’s supposed to be “safe?”
When a brick falls from the wall, a cheerful, ladder-carrying knight arrives to repair it from the verso side. On the other, recto side of the wall, a small team of angry-looking animals—a rhino, a tiger, and a gorilla—arrives to investigate. The brick wall straddles the book’s gutter from the ground at the very bottom of the spread and breaks the frame skyward, blocking those on each side from viewing the other. Using first-person narration, the knight tells readers that their side of the book is “safe” and that the other side is not. But, when the illustrations slowly reveal what lurks on the knight’s side, the knight’s theory doesn’t quite hold water. Or does it? Agee’s expert interplay between words and pictures invites readers to question the narrator’s reliability. Every illustration is a double-page spread (even the unfolded book jacket), and Agee’s signature washed-out color palette and expressive cartoon character designs shine. Animal and human characters alike break the fourth wall to communicate with readers through facial expressions, brilliantly accentuating the contradictory word-picture dynamic. The knight presents white.
With too much attention toward outward threats, the knight neglects to see those from within—a timeless message but also one that, in 2018, will surely strike a chord with many readers. (Picture book. 3-6)