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     Authority figures are realistic for the year 1880 in which this story takes place. They act appropriately for their roles in the life of the town of Treegap. Winnie’s choice to be disobedient leads her into this adventure with the Tucks, but it is clear she regrets breaking trust with her family “twice in three days”. With a family whose staunch pride resembles that of the Oleson family in the Little House on the Prairie series, she remains respectful. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Readers Age 10 - 14
Grades 6th - 10th

Any Which Wall
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Publisher's Description:

Snyder, Laurel. (2009) Any Which Wall. New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-85561-0. Publisher recommends ages 9-12. Litland.com recommended ages 10-14.
 

If you had a magic wall that could take you to any place and any time, where would you go? Would you want to visit castles and desert islands? Would you want to meet famous wizards, terrible pirates, beautiful queens, and dastardly outlaws? If so, then you are just like Henry and Emma, and Roy and Susan—and you will probably like this story a lot. In fact, you might even wish something similar would happen to you! 

In Any Which Wall, author Laurel Snyder proves that you don’t have to be an orphan, know a dragon, or even be a child to get a taste of magic. You just have to keep your mind open and willing to let it happen. And when you do find magic (like Henry, Emma, Roy, and Susan), you might be surprised that along with all the fun, you also find out new things about your friends, your family, and maybe even a little bit about who you really want to be.

   

Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

This story is huge in respect for self and others. Through their banter we see the four kids, two sets of siblings and all friends, treat each other in a typical, believable manner yet is never destructive to the other child.  Disagreeing without manipulation or deceit, acknowledging their mistakes, and thinking through possible consequences of actions, we see these characters grow and mature.  Emma is very young; yet rather than talk down to her or take advantage of her innocence by playing tricks on her, the older kids treat her affectionately and include her in the things they do. Susan is the oldest, a tween. She is beginning to wrestle with the idea of being cool and popular, worried about how she might be seen by her peers. There is every opportunity for her to be cruel and act haughty, but does not. All of  this takes a back seat as she joins in their adventures and finds her true self again.  That the others recognize Susan is “just an older sister doing what older sisters do”, shows understanding between friends and siblings and avoids to digressing to meanness or otherwise poor behavior.
 

Rather than being egocentric, the kids pump up and encourage one another. This is extended to the characters they meet on their adventures too. 

The friends have the courage to stand up to one another when needed. For example, when Henry wants to use the wall for a good reason but in an inappropriate way, the others talk him into doing the right thing. When his sarcasm gets on Roy’s nerves, Roy lets him know and Henry apologizes.  All of this implies solid, meaningful relationships between the four.



Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

Adults are portrayed as competent based upon their role (mother, father, castle guard, librarian, etc.). The author adeptly shows us first the view of the adult through a typical childlike perceptions, such as mom’s nagging at them to eat breakfast.  As the characters develop, we see them take on a bit more appreciation and respect for their parents’ “ways”.  

They also come across interesting, somewhat scary characters from the past and treat them with respect and intrigue. When escaping, whether it be castle guards or bank officials, they do so through ingenuity and without malice.  

Recognizing that the nature of the story is the kid’s having a magic wall which they hide from all others including their parents, this is secondary with little attention paid to the acts of deceit. By doing so, the author has created this situation for the necessity of the story’s setting and not abused it, avoiding the parlaying of it into the characters pitted against their parents or other authority figures as is so common in children’s literature and entertainment today.



Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

There is a strong loyalty amongst this group of friends, looking out for one another’s safety and interest.  At the same time, there is an underlying feeling of belonging to each of their respective families as well, eager to be at home while excited to be gone on an adventure. An overt demonstration of this is when Susan uses skills she has seen her mother (a doctor) use in order to address an urgent medical situation...there is an underlying sense of pride in self and mother.

There is strong loyalty between siblings as well. Henry is a good older brother to Emma while Susan is also to Roy, each sure to include the other. Bonds are strong.

We also see some of the magical characters demonstrating loyalty and citizenship, such as Sam the pirate’s son defending his father.

Good citizenship is also implied, such as when the kids find out that Emma has lots of “friends” with whom she has become acquainted around town. This “odd collection of friends” in the community implies good behavior on her part as it would be an outcome of the same.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


In a very believable fashion and without being preachy, the characters in this story demonstrate over and over again inclusion and taking turns, a just balance of decision making and choices. Negative elements become lessons learned, and childhood fantasies do not overcome real responsibility. “Henry always thought it would be neat (to be a pirate), that is, until he experienced what it felt like to be pirated from”.  He realizes that pirates are bullies. He also rescues Sam in spite of having been bullied by him, continuing the theme of always doing the right thing.



Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

This author is great at portraying the feeling of the action. Whether it is riding hard on a gravel path, wind blowing past, or speeding through stalks of corn, we can feel it as if we are there. Also adding to the beauty of the story is the subtle humor, such as Sam (the pirate’s son who is a bookworm) having authentic certificate as a pirate but can’t grow a beard! Other authors try to twist character stereotypes into the unexpected to make their story unique, but doing so typically falls flat. In contrast, these twists in this book add to its fun.

Many lessons are learned by the four kids. An important one for Emma is that beauty isn’t everything (at least when it comes to queens), and for Susan, the beauty of connecting with one’s soul.



Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

Magic in the sense of this story is in the traditional, folklore approach which has no grounding in the objectionable but, rather, is grounded in the imagination. Well done!

 We highly recommend this book!

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion on our Litland.com blog

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