Author/Illustrator: Kathryn Otoshi
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (2017)
Language: English / Wordless
Draw the Line is simple and beautiful, an important book about the things that divide us. It can be read different ways by different people. I see it on a lap read by a mother and her two children. Or in a classroom to students as a way to discuss complex interpersonal interactions in a simplified way. I read it as someone who has experienced a really challenging year, as well as bearing witness to the personal tragedy of a good friend.
Colours and lines are used in this book in ways that tell the story. It's a little Harold and the Purple Crayon in the way that two boys create their own reality with a simply drawn line. They meet in the valley of the book, and it's this centre space where the action begins. Yellow tones are used as two cheerful boys play together with the rope they have made. Then purple tones appear as one of the boys is caught up in the rope. You can see from the progression of the story and the development of feelings as the action builds. What happens next, again in the valley of the book, is that the whole world comes apart and the boys are stuck on either side of a gaping chasm, the sky deeply purple and bruised.
The magical thing about wordless books, and in particular this magical wordless book is of course the shared experience in storytelling. The most important contributor to the story is the reader. One child will remember a bullying incident on the playground and how it could have been different. One mother will think of the time that she and her child seemed to be on different sides of a raging river. Someone else who reads the book might remember last Christmas and the difficult political conversations that happened between aunt Jude and their big brother. Whatever the situation, when misunderstandings and bad feelings cause a rift, the trauma of that can make it seem like the world has suddenly ripped in half. What should you do when that happens? How do you think this book will end?
I'm going to do you a favour and leave it to you to find out. Find this book wherever it lives, in the library or in the bookstore and bring it into your classroom and your home. In bilingual or multilingual contexts wordless books are perfect because of course the story can be told in any language. The subject matter of this book gives it the added bonus of being able to help in situations where language has failed and misunderstandings have opened up a wide gap between cultures. The simplicity and the beauty of this story is that it really does belong to each and every reader, and the conversations that can take place between them.