Jacqueline Woodson - The Other Side

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Break Down The Fence

Jan 6, 2002 (Updated Jan 6, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Wonderful story and moral. Illustrations are fabulous

Cons:One part has a daughter disobeying her mother

The Bottom Line: A story that we all should take to heart and try to follow the example of these two girls. A definite book to read to your children


The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is one of the best books I have come across in some time. Now before I get to far into the review let me warn you I may be even more preachy in this review than any others. (If it’s possible for me to be more preachy). The moral of this story I believe is what I like the most. It’s about breaking racial barriers. I feel this is an important lesson to teach our youngsters. Let me tell you the story and show you how Ms. Woodson handled this topic. Note before telling about the book this is written in language that is sort of stereotypical of the old south. That said lets get on with it.

The Story

We start the story describing where Clover lives and how there is a fence near where they play. Clover’s Mama tells her not to climb over the fence when she is playing. She is told it’s not safe to climb over the fence.

As we progress there is a girl on the other side of the fence who every morning sits on the fence. One day while Clover and her friends where jumping rope the girl asked if she could play. Sandra said no without even asking the rest of us. I don’t know what I would have said. Maybe yes. Maybe no. This shows how prejudice is taught and not ingrained in us. The parents forbidding the children to cross the fence taught the children that the people on the other side should not be associated with. Both sides of the fence teach children this. (I warned you about how I’ll probably sway some to give little sermons according to Klueger)

As we progress in the book we have this passage That summer everyone and everything on the other side of the fence seemed far away. When I asked my mama why, she said, “Because that’s the way things have always been.” (Isn’t this tragic that our society to a great part is like this.) It is mentioned at this point that Clover see’s the girl in town sometimes with her mother. Clover’s Mom tells her not to stare because it is rude.

During rainy days the girl sits on the fence with a raincoat on and plays in the puddles. Clover asks if she can go out. Her Mom says no You stay inside here – where it’s warm and safe and dry Clover always looked for the girl when it rained and without doubt the girl would always be by the fence.

Now one day Clover feels brave and free she approaches the fence. The girl on the other side asks her name Clover, I said. “My name’s Annie,” she said. “Annie Paul. I live over yonder, by where you see the laundry. That’s my blouse hanging on the line.” She smiled then. She had a pretty smile.

As the story progresses Annie asks Clover to come up on the fence with her. Clover ran her hand along the fence and decided a fence like this is meant for sitting on. Clover says that her Mother has told her she shouldn’t go on the other side, but never said anything about sitting on the fence. Annie says her mom said the same thing to her.

As the summer went on Clover and Annie sat on the fence together and made friends. Sandra looked at Clover funny sometimes, but Clover ignored her. Clover’s Mom watched them Clover expected her Mom to make her get down but she never did. One day Clovers Mom said I see you made a new friend. Clover agrees and they both smile.

Next we find the girls jump roping again and Clover and Annie ask if they can play. Sandra says she doesn’t care so they all jump rope together. When they get too tired to jump rope any more they all sit on the fence. That brings us to the end of the book, which I feel has the best lines “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down, “ Annie said. And I nodded. “Yeah,” I said “Someday.”

Notes and Thoughts

As I said I felt this book has an absolutely wonderful message that we need to spread. I wish the “someday” could be today. I think our society may have made some strides but we still have a fence up and it really needs to be torn down. As my pastor said today we are all created in the image of God (I know some of you disagree with me on his existence but even if you don’t believe in him we all evolved the same). Therefore, we should reach out to one other with love and friendship. I could probably write a few thousand words more about how I feel on this topic, but I will stop my sermon for the day here and finish telling you about the book.

The 32-page book is published by G.P. Putnam and Son’s and copyrighted in 2001. The watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis are extremely life like and draw a vivid picture of the two heroines striking a friendship and trying to figure out why they should be divided. The list price on the book is $16.99 (U.S.) and $23.99(CAN.) and ISBN 0-399-23116-1.

I would guess the reading level is about on the 2nd grade level. However, I feel any grade can read or have this book read to them and wonderful discussions can be had. I discussed the book with Ryan who thought when I was talking about differences in color was referring to the houses. Boy am I proud of him. “So what if the kids are different Daddy we are all the same inside.” Guess Mom and Dad are doing something right. (Hopefully, he just wasn’t saying what he thought Dad wanted to hear.) The only thing I could find wrong with the book is that Annie disobeyed her Mother by climbing over the fence and playing jump rope, but it worked for the message of the book. I by no means support disobedience of children though. That said I still highly recommend this book for all to read.

Thank you as always for reading my review I hope you found it informative and helpful.

Let’s tear down that fence in the New Year!

Klueger





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