I picked up "The Other Side" from the opening of the Ruby Bridges exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. It is written by Jacqueline Woodson with beautiful watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis. The story is about two little girls named Clover and Annie – one child black and the other white. Clover and Annie are neighbors who are the same age and who are separated by a long white running fence through their backyards. As Clover and her friends play in the yard they are closely watched by lonely Annie who wants to join them. Annie and Clover’s mothers tell the girls they are never to cross the fence and the girls obey (for the most part). "The Other Side" is a story about friendship and bravery as well as the innocence and playfulness of children.
"The Other Side" can also be viewed as a symbol for the Civil Rights Movement and shows racial tension though a child’s eyes. Clover and Annie’s friendship crosses symbolic racial boundaries (the fence). Although it was not mentioned in the text of the story, the illustrations show that the time period of the story is probably in the 1960s or 1970s due to the clothing of the characters and the rural setting could possibly be in the Midwest or southern United States. The book allows children to discuss racial boundaries and friendships in a developmentally appropriate way and the theme behind the story touts the message of hope for change.
"The Other Side" is appropriate reading for all ages. Younger children will enjoy the colorful illustrations as well as watching the friendship blossom between Clover and Annie. Parent and teachers of older children can use the book as a springboard for discussions on race and equality. Middle to high school age students can use the book during discussions on Jim Crow laws, Ruby Bridges, the Civil Rights Movement, and other similar topics in US history.
Teachers and parents can use the questions below to springboard discussion with children of various ages:
• Do a picture walk through the story before reading. Where does the story take place? What time period is the story set? What are some clues to help you decide?
• Why do you think Clover and Annie’s mothers warn them about playing together? Why do they insist on keeping the children on either side of the fence?
• Do you find yourself similar to the character of Annie or Clover? Why?
• What are some ways to introduce yourself to a new friend? If another child asks to play with you, what is the polite way to respond? Act out an example.
• If you were Clover or Annie, what games would you like to play together? What are your favorite games to play with friends?
Additional questions can be found here.