A young boy weighs the pros and cons of building a wall in his bedroom.
In letters addressed “Dear Mr. President,” Sam describes his grievances with his big brother, “who exactly fits your description of an undesirable person”: He uses his cellphone at night “even though he isn’t allowed,” and “it keeps me awake.” His classmates are also talking about the president’s wall. “There didn’t seem to be many kids who thought it was a good idea,” but Sam whines that “They obviously don’t know what it’s like to share a room.” Subdued line-and-wash paintings show Sam learning about the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China while his family tries to broker peace. Recurrent images of extraterrestrials indicate the unspoken context of undocumented immigrants. Dad says that “communication and negotiation are always preferable to separation” (implying, perhaps, that the concentration camps on the U.S.–Mexico border are a result of poor communication?), and the dispute is eventually settled when the big brother comforts Sam after a nightmare. While some children may see in Trump’s fascist blatherings a solution to their own domestic problems, the kindly, bemused tone this text, a New Zealand import via Canada, takes toward a humanitarian crisis feels jarringly inappropriate.
Despite good intentions, this story only makes xenophobia seem palatable. (Picture book. 4-7)