Review: Beyond The Fence by Maria Gulemetova [Shotlisted For The CILIP Kate Greenaway award]
Piggy lives in a large house with Thomas. Thomas chooses the games. And what Piggy wears. And whether or not Piggy should go outdoors. This is the only world Piggy has ever known, until one day a wild pig appears in the garden and tells Piggy about the world beyond the fence.
A gentle story about freedom and friendship, and what it looks like when friendship goes wrong.
Toxic-friendship is a difficult subject to explain to young children, whose worlds are neatly divided into best friends, friends, nice people to play with and bullies. How do you explain that these aren’t character types? That someone who plays fun games and makes you feel special can also be controlling?
Story is a powerful thing and reading this would be a lovely way to introduce questions about why Piggy feels trapped in the big house where he appears to have everything. Is giving people nice things friendship? Why does Piggy feel free when he bounds away from Thomas and makes friends with the wild pig instead? By talking over the story, readers can learn to recognise controlling behaviour.
Every word used in the story counts and the illustrations speak volumes. Thomas, with his greying pallor, is a less attractive friend than the wild pig. The house, although filled with luxuries, is a box-like space of straight lines. The doors are closed and we only see windows when Piggy is looking out at the wild spaces. Otherwise the rooms close him in. The hills, on the other hand, roll in every direction. They are painted in different brush strokes and different hues.
Beyond The Fence is shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Award. To me, it appears to be the quiet contender, up against big names from big publishing houses. Yet this is a story which matures with every reading. What looked like simple pictures the first time I picked it up now seem rich with detail. It isn’t a big and riotous story. It is a solid story told in a way which makes the reader pick up on big themes. I can see it lasting for years and being used to open discussions about friendship.
A winner by every count and story which stays in the mind.
A story about toxic friendship which gets bigger and better with every nuance the reader picks up.
The winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal is announced on 18th June 2019. Learn more and keep up with news of the awards on the official website.
Thanks to Riot Communications and Child’s Play for my copy of Beyond The Fence. Opinions my own.