This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 19.2.
The title and the cover of The Line bring Crockett Johnson’s masterly Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) immediately to mind, and certainly The Line has much of the same charm; yet it is, fortunately, refreshingly different. Our line is not drawn by the protagonist, telling a story as she goes, but rather, the charcoal line lies waiting at the bottom of the page, a tool for her lively imagination. The text has no words, leaving the readers to focus exclusively on the childishly drawn girl in the simple red dress. The pages are grey with smudges of charcoal where the “child”-artist has rubbed against the edges; the line is not perfectly straight, even as it lies along the ground; and the colours of the girl’s hair and dress are scribbled, almost within the lines.
The storyline is simple but engaging: the girl picks up the line, and with the bight in her hand heads off onto the next page. There, she wiggles it up and down like a skipping rope, making waves in the air. Her story continues page to page as she slides down one of her waves, pushes a hoop, blows bubbles, swings like a monkey, and balances on her head for her line-drawn audience. The she encounters some frightening monsters and bears, who chase her across the last pages, until she is saved by a cuddly teddy bear, whom she hugs in thanks. On the back of the final page, we see the source of her line: a young boy in a blue shirt, giggling as the charcoal pencil trails behind him.
I’m not certain about the gender stereotypes inherent in the girl in the red dress following a line created and controlled by the boy in blue shirt… but for those to whom this is not problematic, The Line is a beautifully conceived and artfully executed story.