Maia and the Very Tall Wall

Schiffer Kids. Sept. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780764360800.
PreS-Gr 2–Maia, a small girl with white skin, black pigtails, and bangs, has always been an inquisitive child, but as she grows up, she stifles her wondering. One day she can’t help but ask what is behind the ever-growing wall in her backyard. This question leads her to a child of the same age, but with light brown skin and very long curly black ringlets on the other side, and with other children depicted in a range of skin colors they are able to look beyond their own perspectives. The story holds a message about STEAM habits of mind, and maintaining one’s curiosity. The illustrations are rendered in slightly muted tones, until they deepen and brighten as Maia climbs the wall and expands her worldview. Penfield plays adeptly with composition and perspective, especially when it comes to the wall. A particularly compelling image shows Maia standing on the wall, watching the blue clouds lift over two sparkling cities on either side. Though the story itself is engaging, it stumbles a bit with the concept of the wall. Children may wonder why its growth is never explained, and adults may struggle to find meaning in the metaphor. Plus, the writing can get awkward: “Maia stood in the snow in front of the wall, her eyes burning with curiosity from between her scarf and her woolly hat.” Still, Maia’s story shines through and presents a positive message of holding on to one’s curiosity and passion.
VERDICT Recommended for those who can look past the confused wall metaphor.

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