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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Don't Cross the Line!
by Isabel Minhos Martins
Age Range: 6-8
On the orders of the general no one must cross the line. It's imperative that the right-hand-page of the book is kept blank and an armed guard follows these orders without question, but as the crowd builds up on the border he is coming under increasing pressure. More importantly, if no one is allowed onto the next page, what will happen to the story?
There is a lot going on in this clever slapstick board book by Portuguese author Isabel Minhos, translated by Daniel Hahn. The minimal text in the form of speech bubbles and the busy felt-pen artwork of Bernardo Carvalho, with its child-like quality, ensures that the reader will need to explore each page carefully to keep up with the activity as it evolves on every page.
With a slow build up to a 'peaceful protest, the first page is blank with the exception of the guard on the right-hand-side near the 'border' and the face of a dog at the top left-hand-side. By page two a man has appeared. As he attempts to move onto the next page the guard stops him and explains that his general has reserved the right to keep the page blank, so he can join the story whenever he feels like it.
More and more people begin to amass on the left-hand page; they are getting exasperated because no one is going anywhere and they all have things to do. It is only when two boys kick their ball over onto the opposite page that the tense situation begins to dispel as the guard gradually relents by allowing people to cross the line onto the right-hand-page which gradually starts to fill up. They then have to stand up to the general when he turns up with his band of armed guards.
Don't Cross the Line is a witty picture book that can be read on several levels – it can simply be enjoyed for its absurdity with the array of colourful comic characters, (there is a fun cast of characters displayed at the front and back of the book showing the 'before' and 'after' positions on the pages), or it can be seen as a statement about dictatorship and a demonstration of gentle anarchy and peaceful revolution.