Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Other Side  
 by Jacqueline Woodson
 Illustrations by E.B. Lewis

I love Jacqueline Woodson’s vernacular and storytelling voice.  I would love the opportunity to someday see her in person and hear her read her stories aloud.

Please see my reflections and thoughts on when I read The Other Side to my 5th grade Library classes under the “What I know for Sure” tab of this blog.

Book Talk
The protagonist, Clover, narrates this poignant, meaningful story of a black girl, a white girl, a friendship and a fence.

The fence. The fence stretches through the town and symbolizes the separation of the white people and the black people. Clover’s mother has warned her not to go on the other side of the fence because it is not safe. But this particular summer, a white family has moved into a house on the other side of the fence near Clover’s house. There is a young girl in the white family who is about Clover’s age.

A favorite line from this part of the story: “That summer everyone and everything on the other side of that fence seemed far away. When I asked my mama why, she said, “Because that’s the way things have always been.”

Clover sees the white girl playing outside. Every day. As the neighbor girl plays, she gets closer to the fence until she is sitting on top of it.  Clover watches, waits and thinks about the neighbor girl everyday.

Another favorite line from this part of the story, “Someplace in the middle of the summer, the rain stopped.”

One day the girl was on the fence and asked Clover and her friends if she could join them in  jumping rope. One of Clover’s friends answered ‘no’ before Clover has a chance to consider it. This seemed to bother Clover.

Eventually, the two girls talk and introduce themselves. Clover holds back a little from talking, but the neighbor named Annie is friendly.  They both admit that their mothers have told them not to go to the other side. But then Annie suggests that they sit on the fence because “she never said nothing about sitting on it.”  Clover thinks that is a great idea.

The girls do sit on the fence and their friendship blossoms.  They ignore Clover’s friends who initially stare at them and they spend hours together during the rest of the summer ‘watching the whole wide world around them’ and symbolically lowering the height of the fence.

Mama notices the girls' friendship building and Clover waits to be told to stop sitting on the fence. But Mama doesn’t ask her to do that.  Instead Mama acknowledges the new friendship with a smile and Clover is pleased with her quiet approval.

One day Clover and Annie ask Clover’s friends if they can jump rope. They hear the answer, “I don’t care”, which they take as more or less a ‘yes’. The two girls join in the fun. And they do have fun--all of them together- black and white. Afterwards all six of the girls sit on the fence together and declare that someday the fence will be torn down.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: predicting, connecting, inferring, critiquing
Writing Workshop genres & strategies: Personal narrative, memoir, Good Endings
Curricular Themes: US History/ Civil Rights issues; We Need Diverse Books

Jacqueline Woodson’s website:

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