MTYT: The Dark and the Light

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Last week, Susan and Deanna looked at how companionship develops as a result of crossing borders in The Garden: A Novel. This week, they give their takes on The Light and the Dark by Kerstin Hau and how this fantasy picturebook depicts borders not as something that separates people, but as an instrument that creates a possibility of bringing people together.

SUSAN: The last book this month is one I keep trying to squeeze in somewhere! I loved this fantasy picture book that, in my opinion, is all about the process of crossing borders and developing the courage to take the first step. In this story two characters, Shaggy and Sparkle, live in their respective spaces, the dark and the light. However, each is curious about the borderland, the gray space between the dark and light. They each venture into that space, hear the other person, and eventually cross over into each other’s spaces. In the process they discover that the “other space” is not as threatening and scary as they thought, and they make friends with someone who belongs in the “other” space.

We talked two weeks ago about how the background colors communicate part of the story in Daniel and Ismail. The background colors are an integral part of the story in The Dark and the Light. In fact, the illustration process is fascinating. It is done with solar paper that was exposed to light. That is the reason the blues are so unique.

DEANNA: Shaggy and Sparkle are definitely relatable characters, bravely meeting each other on the border, in the gray space. This reminds me of how borders between countries can be dark and gloomy just because we don’t know the people on the other side. We worry about how different they might be–such as their language, religion, beliefs, values or traditions.

Sparkle and Shaggy enter the band for the first time, even though they are scared of each other. They decide to become friends and meet every day at the border. Both creatures adventure into the unknown, seeing more colors and light, growing closer together.

The border between two countries in A Sky Without Lines by Krystia Basil and illustrated by Laura Borrás is similar to the gray space in The Dark and the Light. Yet, in this picturebook the border separates Arturo’s family–on one side of the line are Arturo and his mother. On the other side are his father and brother Antonio.

The wall between both countries is a tall barricade. Arturo wishes there was a gap for him to squeeze through or a tunnel for him to go under the line. Sometimes he dreams of building a bridge over the lines. Just like Shaggy and Sparkle, Arturo wonders why there are lines in the first place. One day he notices how birds fly between countries and that there are no lines in the sky. He dreams of meeting his brother in space and playing fútbol on the moon.

One of the borders in the books is created by light, the other created artificially by a stroke of the pen on a map. How do these stories help readers to cross borders?

SUSAN: I am struck by the first page in A Sky Without Lines. Arturo loves maps, and he particularly loves borders because he sees them as a place to meet someone. He personifies the countries and thinks of them as greeting each other with a hug where they meet on a map. To Arturo, the border is a place of possibility, not a barrier. And that is what the gray zone ends up being for Shaggy and Sparkle–a place for a new friendships to grow.

This is another key concept in crossing borders. Last week we talked about companionship, and this week the books position a border as a zone of possibility. For that to happen we have to think of the border as a fuzzy zone that we can gradually cross, or as a simple line on a map instead of an impenetrable wall. I appreciate Shaggy and Sparkle’s perspective because once they get over their fear of the unknown, they are able to cross over into each other’s worlds and enjoy a deep friendship. So, part of successful border crossing entails making the lines a bit fuzzy!

As we talk about crossing borders, what are the points you want to remember and take into your own classroom?

DEANNA: Being part of the OIB committee and reading all of the amazing international books this past year has reminded me how important it is for teachers to share global books with students. Investigating and discussing children’s and young adult books around the themes of immigration and refugees will help our students see the possibilities of crossing borders.

Title: The Dark and the Light
Author: Kerstin Hau
Illustrator: Julie Völk
ISBN: 9780735843851
Publisher: NorthSouth Books
PubDate: September 3, 2019

Throughout February 2020, Susan and Deanna give their take on books focused on narratives that cross borders. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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