Isabel Minhós Martins and Bernardo P. Carvalho illustrate the concepts of dictatorship and democracy in a picture book that encourages explaining children the importance of an active civic role

Isabel Minhós Martins, Bernardo P. Carvalho, Don’t Cross The Line! Translated by Daniel Hahn

Published 2016 by Gecko Press (First published in Portuguese in 2014), 40p


It is crucial to tell children about their civic rights and to encourage them to become active citizens. A healthy democracy is built with high and active participation of the people. Unfortunately there are countless cases of oppression, tyranny, propaganda and fake news but often people’s questioning and resistance bring the change.

Don’t Cross The Line! is an imperative title that resumes the policy and attitude of a guard who always follows the general’s orders. Intransigent, the guard refuses to let the people step on the right page of the book.

STOP! I’m very sorry, but no one’s allowed onto the right-hand page.

But why? Is there some terrible danger? Are we being invaded? Is it a demonstration?

Nothing like that. My general reserves the right to keep the page blank, so he can join the story whenever he feels like it.

But that’s crazy!

diverse people

white page

Young and old persons, musicians, dancers, officers, even Red Riding Hood and a ghost are all confused by the absurd policy and wait for a change. Together and peaceful, they protest against the unfair rule, expecting to be offered the freedom to cross the line. The white pages on the right and the progressive growth of the crowd induce a subtle tension.

Then a child drops his ball on the other side. Oops! He goes to pick it up. But his action will actually set a pattern and more people will cross the line, enjoying the freedom.


This book’s for everybody!

When the general comes and discovers the disobedience he outbursts in rage and wants to punish the guard but, to his surprise, the people make the guard their hero.

The brightly coloured, childlike illustrations abound in powerful details, making the book sophisticated and relevant to all ages. While the young readers will be entertained by exposition and characters, the mature audience will decode the strong messages and read the book as a reminder of the importance of people’s active civic role in an oppressed society.

Complement Don’t Cross the Line! with two other great picture books created by the excellent team Isabel Minhós Martins and Bernardo P. Carvalho: The World in a Second and Coming and Going.


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