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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Thao Lam, THE LINE IN THE SAND

A monster meanders down a beach, dragging a stick behind them and leaving a line in the sand. Meanwhile, a group of friends is at play―flying kites, building sandcastles, tossing a ball―until two of them become curious about the line that now seemingly divides them.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Thao Lam

Publisher: Owlkids (September 13, 2022)

What inspired you to create The Line in the Sand? Is it something about the political climate or .... ?

TL: "My little one and I spend a lot of time at different parks throughout the city. Parks are a microcosm of our larger society; they're a great cross section of little people learning how to interact with each other. It was during one of these outings that we observed an altercation. At the end, Maddie wanted to know who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. Not knowing the root of the altercation, I tried to explain to her that sometimes things are not always black and white. There are often many interpretations or different perspectives to a problem (or solution)."

I find it intriguing how you jump back and forth between wordless books and ones with text. How do you decide which way to go? Why did you decide to go wordless with The Line in the Sand? "I let the story take the lead; sometimes it’s an image that starts the story or sometimes it’s a line of text like in the case of My Cat Looks Like My Dad. My natural tendency is to tell a story visually because I find writing a challenge.

​​I intentionally made The Line In The Sand a wordless picture book because misunderstandings are often due to a lack of communication. By not including text, readers are now left to their own interpretation of the situation; will they be right or wrong? Or do they just have a different perspective? Without clarification through text, readers can empathize with the two main characters and understand how two friends could end up in such an altercation.

Wordless pictures books are great conversation starters because they force the readers to talk about what they are seeing, and their interpretation of the story. Each reader will bring something personal depending on their age, background, and experiences. My little one will see two friends fighting while I will see our current political climate."

Do you still read to your daughter? If so, what are you reading now? What did you love reading to Maddie at age 3? At age 5? "Oh yes! It’s my favorite time of day. Maddie would pick out one or two books (or twenty) and we read and we talk. She loved anything by Oliver Jeffers; his books have such great humor and are so fun to read out loud. There was a time when I was reading The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers EVERY NIGHT FOR MONTHS (until the book just disappeared one day…).

My parents were always busy working so I never got the experience of snuggling up with a parent and a book. Now that Maddie knows how to read, I now get the joy of being read to and I love it!"


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