THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK by John Agee

Welcome to 2019! I hope everyone enjoyed their 2018 with us here on the PBB Blog as much as I did. There were some really amazing books covered. And speaking of amazing books, I’m happy to to have Jon Agee’s THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK as my first post for the new year.

Today my “one thing” that I want to focus on is the way the story in THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK uses an an obvious set-up to allow for a deeper truth to be revealed.

The story starts off with a wall of bricks right down the gutter of the book. The “wall”. We see some some what menacing looking animals on the right and a kind looking knight character with a ladder on the left.

A bit more is revealed. The animals definitely look like they’re being kept from the left side, and we’re inclined to agree this is for the best. This is the key to help us lean in our understanding this way – which helps Agee’s misdirection.

And here we notice another less threatening character, a duck, on the left, as well as the fact that the wall is in need of repair.

Now is when things start to seem a bit off, but too far off. There’s a mouse on the right under the animals we believe to be a threat, and some water appearing on the left. Though a bit strange, nothing looks totally contradictory yet, and the text that lets us know we’re supposed to think as we did before.

Again with the left having the water rising is confusing, and the right went from menacing to funny, with that mouse causing a bit of an incident.

And now we’re not entirely sure what to believe. The little knight is clearly unaware of his developing situation which looks troublesome, and the right is continuing to be funny, with emphasis on the “not menacing” aspect for good measure. I have to say that I also appreciate how Agee uses such a simple approach to the text. Just one short sentence per page. I feel this works so well with the artwork in that nothing needs to be over explained. It’s almost as if there are three stories going on. What is happening on the left. What is happening on the right. And then what the knight is informing us about in regards to the purpose of the wall.

Then, just when we think we know what is going on, we are introduced to a rather intimidating ogre character – and again, our predisposition to the understanding of ogres has us a bit confused again as to whether any of these sides is really better than the other.

While I have skipped a couple pages to get here, Agee arrives at the place in the story where the little knight realizes what is actually happening on his side of the wall, and it’s not good. We also see the ogre on the right side, while still looking dangerous, seemingly trying to figure out what’s happening to the left side of the book. I won’t reveal anymore, as I don’t want to spoil it, but please check it out for yourself. It’s worth it.

I know there will be a lot of other really great reviews and articles written about the other great things this book, and the message with in it. And so, on top of appreciating that, my take-away will be once again on the importance of a set up with a story: How THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK works to help us fall into the regular story arcs of what is good and what is bad, just so we can appreciate and recognize what is really being told here.

Until next time!


Mike Boldt

Mike Boldt

Mike Boldt is an author and illustrator from Alberta, Canada. With more than 15 books in the wild, he's authored titles such as 123 VERSUS ABC and COLORS VERSUS SHAPES (HarperCollins), and his latest, A TIGER TAIL (Simon and Schuster). He's also the illustrator of Dev Petty's I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG & I DON'T WANT TO BE BIG & THERE'S NOTHING TO DO (Doubleday). You can learn more about Mike at www.mikeboldt.ca

15 Comments:

  1. What a great analysis of this book. I can’t wait to check it out. Thanks, Mike! Happy New Year!

  2. This looks amazing and profound. Searching for it now. Thanks!

  3. Great de-construction of this awesome #PB.

  4. The Wall in the Middle of the Book was one of my favorite picture books of 2019! I can think of someone who would benefit from reading this book about a wall . . .

  5. I love this book and I love this post! Thanks, Mike. 🙂

  6. Now, I’m so intrigued – how does it end? I must find this book!

  7. Well, I am so curious now. The title alone wasn’t too inviting to me, so I’m glad you featured it here. Thanks for the helpful analysis.

  8. What a great analysis of the set-up! I love this book and plan a post on it very soon. Thanks for letting us see it through illustrator eyes!

  9. Great post Mike. I too liked this book. But it is even more interesting when broken down into the craft behind its construction. Thank you.

  10. Well done Mike. I loved this post and now I have to get this book.
    Great way to start off 2019!

  11. This book is so creative and WONDERFUL!

  12. I have to get this book to find out what happens!

  13. I read this book. The ending is very creative. I love it.

  14. I’m a big Jon Agee fan, and have been eager to read this book. But now I’m REALLY eager so I can find out what happens!! Thanks, Mike!

  15. Thank you for the great analysis, Mike. I have this book checked out right now and love how Agee balances the text and illustrations. I felt this book was very similar in style to his very funny LIFE ON MARS, with the simple text from a confident but clueless narrator. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he essentially used the same character in both books.

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