It’s my final review during Laurel Snyder September and I am sad the journey is over; however, just like with her books, the journey stands out as being worthwhile so I can’t let the fact that it is coming to a close bring me down. Plus, she has more books on the horizon, to go with the picture books I did not review, which means I have plenty of great reading in my future!
The wall looming over that Iowa cornfield has its magic discovered accidentally by the four friends. By touching the wall and making a wish, they realize they can be transported to any place during any time period so long as that place has walls. They decide it is only fair if each of them gets a wish, and since they are different ages and share different passions, they are able to come up with a variety of adventures spanning hundreds of years, many of which are hinted at by the illustrations on the book jacket. In true Laurel Snyder fashion, however, these wishes do not turn out exactly how the wishers might expect…
Any Which Wall reminds me (in a good way) of the fantasy books of yesteryear: kids go on adventures without any superpowers; magic has simple rules that must be followed; and the main setting is in an everyday place. The detailed illustrations by LeUyen Pham also help to convey this feeling due to the way they would easily fit in a book written in the 1950s or 60s.
Young readers can easily jump into the adventure since the protagonists are not unlike themselves, and adults can imagine their younger selves being a part of these adventures. This is great for engagement with the book but also because children reading this book can pick out how each of the characters grew during their adventures and relate this back to their own possibilities. For example, Emma is the youngest and lacks confidence in her capability compared to that of the older children; however, if she had continued to doubt herself and given up, the kids might not have made it through their first journey.
This book contains a theme found in other novels by Miss Snyder that childhood is about exploration and making mistakes that provide experiences to learn from. Throughout their travels, the children in this novel must make quick decisions about a course of action, some of these resulting in consequences that could easily turn dire. Later, when the children want to know the ‘right’ path for solving a problem, the response they receive is, “Sometimes you just have to try a few doors, make a mistake or two.” It’s ideas like this that convey to children the need to make choices based on what they know and not to necessarily rely on others to make those choices for them.
I enjoyed the pacing of this novel and the way the narrator interacted with the story in a Lemony Snicket-esque way at times. Like Snyder’s other novels, I was satisfied in not knowing how the ending would turn out, and I was also pleased with a problem presenting itself that I thought had been resolved. Anyone who likes fantasy books in which children find magic that helps them set sail on various adventures should find plenty to love in Any Which Way.
From reading five of Laurel Snyder’s works, I can see that she is a talented writer of children’s fiction who creates characters readers young and old will find engaging. Her skills and writing style came to my mind when a character in Any Which Wall is asked about why he acts the way that he does and he responds, “I can only be what I am. And I’m happy, I suppose, because I don’t try to be anything else.” And I am happy that Miss Snyder continues to be herself, writing magical stories that will surely be enjoyed for years to come.
Check out or purchase Any Which Wall today!
(Please see my previous September posts to find other books by Laurel Snyder that you should reading.)