What Small Vertical Line Learned is a coming-of-age tale that teaches valuable lessons about acknowledging and accepting diversity and believing in one’s hopes and aspirations.
In this short children’s picture book, Grandpa Vertical Line feels that members of the Vertical Line Family should “stand as unbending as a tree trunk and as upright as a soldier.” All the “bending and twisting and zigzagging” that other shapes do is simply unbecoming.
But his grandson, Small Vertical Line, disagrees. Small Vertical Line is especially troubled by Grandpa’s constant grumbling about their relatives, the Horizontal Line Family and the Diagonal Line Family. Grandpa says that members of the Horizontal Line Family “never [get] off their backs to do anything.” And he criticizes the Diagonal Line Family “for always leaning on everyone else.” Family reunions always end in an “angry mess,” because of Grandpa’s crabby attitude.
Tired of unpleasant family get-togethers, Small Vertical Line leaves home to “think about lines in general.” After journeying for a bit, he grows tired and falls asleep under a leafy maple tree. He awakens to a wondrous sight: the tree’s tangle of branches is “curved and vertical and horizontal—even in zigzag shapes … [It] was a beautiful maze of lines and shapes.” He decides that he can be any kind of line he wants to be.
Except for the drawing of the maple tree, the book’s illustrations are amateur, and there’s inconsistency in the way the characters are drawn: Grandpa is a stick figure until the last page; Small Vertical Line is given a more human form, even though he first appears as a stick figure. There are several typos, as well as the incorrect spelling of the word lightning (spelled “lightening”).
In the end, Grandpa experiences an epiphany that, unfortunately, overshadows the one experienced by Small Vertical Line, but their coming-together secures a loving bond and the story offers a warm message, despite its flaws.
Also available in e-book