A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
JANUARY 27:

  • Happy birthday Jean Merrill (The Pushcart War, The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars) and Harry Allard (Miss Nelson is Missing!).
  • It’s the birthdate of Lewis Carroll (1832–1898) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).
  • In 1825 the U.S. Congress approves Indian Territory (in what is present-day Oklahoma), clearing the way for forced relocation of the Eastern Indians on the Trail of Tears. Read Only the Names Remain: The Cherokees and the Trail of Tears by Alex W. Bealer, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas.
  • Happy birthday to The National Geographic Society, founded in Washington, D.C., in 1888.

Today, many in the blogging community will be celebrating multiculturalism in children’s books. For a list of those participating, check pragmaticmom and Jump Into a Book. In a society where our children come from a variety of racial backgrounds, the plea for high-quality content, featuring characters of all races, has never been more important.

On the Almanac today, I am showcasing one of the most impassioned picture books I have read in the past fifteen years—Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side. In a career that began in 1990 with the novel Last Summer with Maizon, Woodson has presented difficult topics, using her velvet touch. She has always managed to face timely issues head-on, with superb craftsmanship and an ability to create emotional ties between the reader and characters of color.

In The Other Side, Woodson explores the metaphor of a fence. A lone white child, Annie, lives on one side; a black child, Clover, plays with friends on the other. Both mothers admonish the girls to stay on their own side. But as the summer goes on, Annie begins to climb on the fence to see what is going on around her—and in a brave move, Clover joins her. Having broken down a barrier, the girls form a relationship and begin to play with each other.

E. B. Lewis’s soft watercolors take away this world’s hard edges. The girls seem so universal that any reader could imagine both of them as neighbors. In the tenth anniversary edition, certainly the best version to own, Woodson talks about her writing process, particularly about wanting to create “a lyrical story that brought with the telling hope.” And although the author thinks the fence has been lowered in ten years, she encourages all young readers to continue to tear it down.

Our children need books that provide both windows and mirrors—books that show people like them, and books that provide understanding about those different from them. And they desperately need impassioned authors like Jacqueline Woodson.

I hope today you take time to introduce some fine multicultural books to the young people in your life. Let’s lower the fence just a bit today and every day this year.

Here’s a page from The Other Side:

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Originally posted January 27, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: African American, Civil Rights, History, Multicultural
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Other Side
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COMMENTS

  1. Linda C. says:

    Anita, Thanks for introducing this lovely book. Over the years, as a volunteer reading mentor for Afro-American kindergarteners, I have found a growing number of books featuring Afro-American characters for this age group. When I first began this work, there were very few (at least that I was able to find). I agree with you that it is very important that all children see books with characters like them in them. I will order this one today. The pictures look lovely. Thank you for letting me know about this book!

    I enjoy your blog, learning about books I’ve not seen, and reading about old friends. Thank you.

  2. PragmaticMom says:

    Thank you so very much Anita for joining us for Multicultural Children’s Book Day and with such a wonderful suggestion! I just met Jacqueline Woodson at the Nerdy Book Club Meetup in Boston a month ago and I realized that I had heard of her books but never read them. I ran out and got every one on the shelf at my library and The Other Side happened to in the pile! She is an amazing author! Every book of hers rings true with deep resonance. I loved that the metaphor for the fence can also be taken literally by kids and both messages help us all to be better humans!

  3. Diane V. says:

    Excellent book with such a powerful message; there is always room for expansion in this field of children’s literature.

  4. Valarie says:

    Hello Anita, thank you so much for celebrating Multicultural Children’s Book Day with us. I’m not familiar with this book but have put it on my list to get it immediately. What a poignant tale. I so look forward to reading it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us here.

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