Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain

The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain

Fall 2007 Picture Books
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Peter Sis
ISBN: 978-0-374-34701-7
Hardcover Price: $18.00

Despite the oversized picture book format, this graphic-style history/memoir which depicts life behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War era is best suited to upper elementary, middle and even high school students. While the single line of text across the bottom tells the author’s personal story, from birth through November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall came down, the majority of each page depicts the historical context in which the author grew up. Life in Czechoslovakia during the ‘50s and ‘60s seesawed from harsh Russian repression to Alexander Dubcek’s well-intentioned but ultimately doomed reform government. Through it all, the baby grows from toddler to teenager, always drawing, always painting and always dreaming of freedom. The illustrations, done mostly in fine-line black against white, are punctuated with splashes of compulsory red in the form of flags, stars, scythes and sickles, and contain a wealth of grotesque details and complex symbolism. When freedom sneaks into the political climate, the pinched dimensions and somber tone give way to bursts of vibrant color. Endpapers show a world map steeped in the same bloody red while an introduction and afterword add further context to the discreet information-bites provided by the text. It will take an astute reader to combine the visual and textual information in this complex presentation, but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded with a haunting sense of what life without freedom really means.

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

Look for this product at:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

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