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Beyond the Fence – review and recommendation, by Jem Borsberry

May 27th 2021

Beyond the Fence is a thoughtful and touching book about friendship, freedom, and the courage to explore what lies beyond the fence.

Meet Piggy. Piggy lives in a big house in the countryside with Thomas. Thomas always knows what is best for Piggy, and always decides what games they should play. But a chance meeting with Wild Pig makes Piggy start to wonder what life is like outside of Thomas’ house – and what worlds may lie beyond the fence.

This book is a favourite for readers of all ages, including grown-ups too. For EYFS to KS1, the book is perfect to discuss fairness as we see Thomas kicking over Piggy’s forest of blocks, saying ‘That’s silly!’ and making Piggy watch a puppet show instead. This provides a lovely moment to stop reading and check in with your listeners – is that fair? Is Thomas a good friend to Piggy? What do we do when someone is being selfish?

When Piggy meets Wild Pig, we can immediately see the differences between them through the illustrations, but I also recommend giving Piggy and Wild Pig distinctly different voices. Piggy’s voice is softer, shyer, and a little more reserved. Wild Pig, in contrast, has a louder, gruffer voice. This is another good place to pause and invite your readers into a conversation – what are the differences between Piggy and Wild Pig? In how they look? In how they sound? In the words they say?

For older, KS2 readers, the book can be used to spark conversations about freedom, which can allude to current, real world situations. Beyond the Fence can link to units on refugees, segregation, and discrimination. Some good conversation starters – is Piggy in danger at all with Thomas? Is Thomas hurting or harming him? Just because he’s not being hurt, does that mean he is free? Is Thomas’ behaviour justified? Is Piggy’s escape justified? What is the importance of Wild Pig’s character?

The book’s illustrations show an old town house and vast, sweeping landscapes. Using their arts skills, encourage your learners to draw, design or create their own versions of the house and of what is beyond the fence.

Encourage your children to learn the British Sign Language signs for some of the vocabulary:

To sign Pig, put your right hand into a fist and move it in a circle in front of your nose.

For Wild Pig, make both hands into fists with your thumbs and pinkies sticking out. Hold your fists either side of your face, pinkies pointing in, and move in circles. Sign pig as above.

Beyond the Fence Maria Gulemetova
Child’s Play Publishers 2017
ISBN: 978-1184643-930-8
18pgs / Five minute read
Shortlisted for CLIP Kate Greenaway Medal
Good for all primary school ages.