“The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain” by Peter Sís (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

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Author and artist, Peter Sís, has had anything but an ordinary life.  He was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia and grew up in Prague during the end of World War II and through the Cold War in Stalin’s Russia.  In The Wall he tells his story of growing up in this world in picture book form, using a simplistic artistic style and careful useful of color for poignancy.

While the book is aimed at 9-12 year olds, it can be read by a person of any age.  The story is somewhat simplistic because of who it is written for, but it is still moving and effective in its goal.  Coupled with actual passages from Sís’s diary that he kept growing up, one gets a sense of what this world must have been like on the other side of the Iron Curtain in a country other than Russia.  There is the sense of fear and repression, but perhaps not so much for those living closer to Moscow.  Sís uses black and white illustrations with a strong vibrant red to indicate the power and control of Soviet Russia.

The Wall is a special story that you won’t read anywhere, which told in picture book form, adds a certain amount of importance and impact that just a page of words wouldn’t have to that extent.  The result is a short, simple, but effective picture book that can be read or read to anyone of any age.

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Originally written on December 2nd 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.