Clover has always wondered why a fence separates the black side of town from the white side. But this summer when Annie, a white girl from the other side, begins to sit on the fence, Clover grows more curious about the reason why the fence is there and about the daring girl who sits on it, rain or shine. And one day, feeling very brave, Clover approaches Annie. After all, why should a fence stand in the way of friendship?
Beautifully rendered in Earl B. Lewis's striking, lifelike watercolor illustrations, Jacqueline Woodson gives us a moving, lyrical narrative told in the hopeful voice of a child confused about the fence someone else has built in her yard and the racial tension that divides her world.
Woodson (If You Come Softly; I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This) lays out her resonant story like a poem, its central metaphor a fence that divides blacks from whites. Lewis's (My Rows and Piles of Coins) evocative watercolors lay bare the personalities and emotions of her two young heroines, one African-American and one white. As the girls, both instructed by their mothers not to climb over the fence, watch each other from a distance, their body language and facial expressions provide clues to their ambivalence about their mothers' directives. Intrigued by her free-spirited white neighbor, narrator Clover watches enviously from her window as "that girl" plays outdoors in the rain. And after footloose Annie introduces herself, she points out to Clover that "a fence like this was made for sitting on"; what was a barrier between the new friends' worlds becomes a peaceful perch where the two spend time together throughout the summer. By season's end, they join Clover's other pals jumping rope and, when they stop to rest, "We sat up on the fence, all of us in a long line." Lewis depicts bygone days with the girls in dresses and white sneakers and socks, and Woodson hints at a bright future with her closing lines: "Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down," says Annie, and Clover agrees. Pictures and words make strong partners here, convincingly communicating a timeless lesson. Ages 5-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.