Dennis’ closet appears normal, and why not? He’s an ordinary boy. But items in his open wardrobe—black-and-white striped shirts, white gloves and a picture of Marcel Marceau—suggest more. And why not? He also expresses himself in extraordinary ways. By adding white face makeup, Dennis becomes a mime. While others show and tell and play, Dennis is happy to mime what he has to say. But “being” a tree rather than climbing one can be isolating.
The color red plays an important role in these muted scenes, from pointing out key words to creating typical mime gestures (pulling a rope, riding a bicycle, walking down stairs, etc.). Red dotted lines emphasize Dennis’ feelings of being invisible in a “box” or standing on the other side of a “wall.”
But when lonely Dennis kicks an imaginary ball, a girl named Joy catches it. Together, there are no walls, only mirrors (mime style, of course). As Dennis and Joy “row” a boat and laugh with jazz hands, their actions speak louder than words. Their behavior is so contagious that soon other children are “jumping rope” with them.
Salina Yoon’s clever story demonstrates that acting is fun, but being a friend is even better.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Behind the Book essay by Yoon about Be a Friend.