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  • Writer's pictureSharon Fujimoto-Johnson

Walls: Three Picture Books

“Poetry has never been the language of barriers; it’s always been the language of bridges.” - Amanda Gorman

Perhaps among my most treasured picture books are the ones that quietly slip into my heart and expand my world in that magical way that only picture books can do. These three picture books, each depicting a different kind of barrier, made my heart explode.




The Notebook Keeper by Stephen Briseño and Magdalena Mora


In this story, the barrier is the San Ysidro border wall between Mexico and America. Noemi and her Mama travel by foot to the border only to find that they must wait, with all the others, for their names to be called. The journey is also internal: toward hope in their hearts. Throughout this moving story, birds fly overhead in the beautiful illustrations, a bittersweet symbol of freedom while those rooted to the earth wait.



Everywhere with You by Carlie Sorosiak and illustrated by Devon Holzwarth


Through seasons and stories and tenderness shared through a fence, a dog and a girl journey into each other’s hearts. Each day is marked by waiting for each other. With the gorgeous swirling artwork filled with blossoms, magical worlds, and vivid colors coupled with the heart-stirring text, there is only one possible resolution for this separation. When it happens, it is as joyful and emotional of an ending/beginning/reunion as anticipated.



The Snail by Emily Hughes


The barrier in The Snail is perhaps more internal than external. Although the barbed wire of the Poston incarceration camp for Japanese Americans makes an appearance and although the tensions between his two countries and his parents exert pressure on Isamu Noguchi, perhaps his internal loneliness and struggle as an artist in a harsh world is the most formidable barrier of all. The duality of identity, the world vs the safe cocoon of art, and the transformation of a complicated existence into belonging all find a place in this extraordinary (and 88-page long!) tribute to legendary artist Isamu Noguchi.



Even in speaking of barriers, picture books like these speak the language of bridges, inviting us to open our hearts and step foot in a world that may or may not seem familiar but is, in fact, all of ours. In this way, they dismantle walls, not only within the pages of a book but also in our hearts.


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