“Life is a journey, not a destination.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
The lead of Line 135 written by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine drew me in since I had an immediate connection. It reads:
There are two places I belong in the world. The first place I belong is my house in the city. The second place I belong is my grandmother’s house in the country.
I, too, have two places I feel where I belong… where I feel at home. They’re conversely different, but are equally special to me. Therefore, I was all-in and ready to keep reading. As I turned the pages of the book, I realized (on the surface) Line 135 is about a little girl’s train trip from her parents’ home to her grandmother’s house. It seems like a book about travel, but it’s about so much more. The little girl, who tells the story in the first person, seems very independent and has big dreams. (She reminds me a bit of Isabella in My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry.) This is a girl who wants “to know the entire world,” but she is told by her mother and grandmother that is an impossibility since it’s hard enough to know oneself. But the little girl is not deterred by her mother and grandmother who tell her what she may not be able accomplish all she wants to in life. She yearns to grow up and see the world so she can tell her mother and grandmother, basically, “I told you so!” The message of the book is that anything is possible if you will it.
As a child, I yearned to move out of New Jersey and into “The City.” From a young age, that is what I set out to do, but I never wrote about it (I just talked about it to anyone who would listen to me). By the time I was 22, I moved to Manhattan. I only wish I had written more about why I wanted to do this when I was a child. This makes me think that a book like Line 135 can be an inspirational text for students who talk about what they want their life to be like “someday.” I think it can be useful in the process of self-discovery. Perhaps they can write about the possibilities they think their life will hold as they grow up. Their writing might read like an essay, but perhaps, as part of their independent writing project, they can create a picture book that visually depicts what their words are describing about their future.
I asked Germano Zullo some questions about Line 135. I hope his responses enhance your use of this book with your students.
SAS: I immediately thought about Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” when I learned the main character feels she belongs in just two places in the entire world. Did you take any inspiration from this fable?
GZ: I know this famous Aesop’s fable, but I admit to not having thought about it to write Line 135. Others are also referred to Perrault’s tale : The Little Red Riding Hood, and again the reference does not appear to me. That said, you never know how old readings may influence work in progress. All my childhood I traveled by train between Switzerland and Italy and Line 135 is truly born during a trip to Japan, aboard a Tokyo’s monorail.
SAS: This book is about possibilities. How do you think this book can encourage children to write about their own possibilities?
GZ: One of the ideas of this book is to take a step back. A step back to observe the world around us, a step back to observe oneself and then a step back to observe the process of interacting with the world around us. From there, we can begin to consider some possibilities.
Children could for example choose a place in the world they know well and they love in particular: their room, their classroom, a street’s corner or a park… How from there, will they grow up and explore the world?
SAS: The structure of this text is easy for a child to comprehend, but has big meaning for adults too. Can you speak about the different audiences you wrote for when you crafted Line 135?
GZ: I do not write for any particular audience, and I’ve never considered the literature from this point of view. I write primarily for the idea. It is what is important and I have to serve it with the best of my ability. The public seems to me often defined by the publisher. Imagine that this book was published in a cartoons collection, a drawing’s collection or why not a contemporary arts collection ? Network and audience would probably have been very different.
SAS: Why did you choose to use the “power of three” at a few points in your text?
GZ: I believe it is simply a question of rhythm. The phrase eventually imposes itself and forms as evidence.
SAS: Please tell me about your writing process.
GZ: The idea comes first. It may come from very, very far or very, very closely. The idea is a real person, like you and me and must be respected as such. I talk with her. This may take more or less time and when we are well agreed, I compose sentences.
SAS: What’s a writing secret you can share with our readers (and their students)?
GZ: I think one of the biggest secrets is to always been intimately linked with his personal experience and treated it with the utmost humility. With this, you can go very far in the imagination and create the most fantastic universes.
SAS: Would you talk about your ongoing collaboration with illustrator Albertine (your wife)?
GZ: We know each other for twenty years. Our work is thus a long dialogue. Everyone must find its rightful place in the work and never the imagination from one must encroach on the other.
SAS: What are you working on now?
GZ: I’m working on fourteen projects : seven novels, among them two are science fiction and seven projects with Albertine, including two comics and one animation.
Take a peek at three of the page spreads from Line 135:
Many thanks to Chronicle Books for sponsoring this giveaway. One lucky commenter (from the USA or Canada) will win a copy of Line 135 by Germano Zullo and Albertine. To enter for a chance to win a copy please leave a comment on this post about my interview with Germano, independent writing projects, or about how you’d use this book in your classroom. All comments left on or before Friday, June 7th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator the following day. I will announce the winners’ names at the bottom of this post no later than Sunday, June 9th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Chronicle will ship the book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you only leave it in the e-mail field.)
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Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this blog post. Amy Rudd’s commenter number was selected using the random number generator. Here’s what she wrote:
Thanks for the introduction, review and interview of the story. I am always interested in knowing more about new children’s literature books! The storyline seems very inspirational and would be a good fit for talking about dreams or goals in the future.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).