Sometimes a Wall… by Dianne White, illustrated by Barroux. Owlkids, 2020. 9781771473736
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? A wall can be many things, and when it divides people, hard questions must be asked. Is it fair? Do I want to share what the wall is guarding? In this picture book, very simple rhyming phrases and words show kids building a wall. One boy proclaims that the wall is all his, his goal clearly being to exclude another boy. When several children join the excluded child in painting the outside of the severe gray wall with lively flowers, the boy who wanted to exclude others regrets his stand, and finally joins all of the children in creating a joyful painted wall. The two boys end up as friends.
I really like the simple treatment of inclusion vs exclusion, and showing that people who are “mean” can change. Adults will make political interpretations of this message, but young readers will most likely take it at face value: it’s okay to make mistakes, and there is value in sharing. Barroux’s art, which looks to be pen and ink and watercolors, in a simple naïve style with textured colors, is reminiscent of the French artist Sempé, and is perfectly suited to the tale.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No, but younger children may need to be guided to see the symbolism of the wall.
To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 4-7, in classrooms or story time use. Could be paired with Felix and the Monsters (Holtsclaw) and The Wall in the Middle of the Book (Agee) for discussion about real and metaphorical walls.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: December 30, 2020