Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Wall

Sis, Peter. 2007. The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain. FSG.

Another nonfiction picture book for older readers. This time it's about the cold war, communism, and art. It's the autobiography of Peter Sis, an author and illustrator. It's both simple and complex.
"As long as he could remember, he had loved to draw. At first he drew shapes. Then he drew people. After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told to at school. He drew tanks. He drew wars."
The art has captions providing a time line, facts which are crucial in placing everything into context. Also included in The Wall are selections from his journals. These entries are both informative of his culture and his personal life. One being,
"My father's cousin Lamin is in prison as an enemy of the state. My grandmother talks to my parents about it in German so my sister and I won't understand. But we understand some of it. He was on a national volleyball team that was going to a tournament in the West, and the players were all planning to stay there. The secret police found out. Lamin is twenty years old and will be in prison for the rest of his life. (1956)"
Another being,
"I built a scooter that collapsed when my sister, Hana, was riding it downhill. She hates me!" (1963).
The picture book covers several decades. I found it interesting in a way to see how rock music came to symbolize "the West" and helped many young people see the light if you will. Sis' interest in rock music--his love for the Beatles and Beach Boys, among others of course, was fun to read about.

Overall, I really liked this one. I can see why it got such great reviews a few years back. If you haven't picked this one up yet, it's not too late. Try it, see if you like it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Paige Y. said...

I'd like to gather enough copies to use with a class. I've found over the past few years that students really have no concept of communism and the Cold War. So different from when I grew up . . .

(and that sounds like I'm 100 years old -- really, I'm just 43)