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The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (2007)

by Peter Sís

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1,06613815,496 (4.15)89
I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side - the Communist side - of the Iron Curtain. Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sis shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Si;s learned about beat poetry, rock 'n' roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities - creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.… (more)
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» See also 89 mentions

English (137)  Danish (1)  All languages (138)
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
I learn so much when reading personal accounts from children that lived through such perilous times. Where this life was all that they knew. Peter's book fits into that category. Snippets from his journal give you a first hand account of what indoctrination looks like especially during a time when you don't have the freedom to ask questions. Great book for introducing up and coming readers to this part of history. ( )
  RayRosa | May 25, 2022 |
"We don't have to go far back in time to see that the map of the world keeps changing." (from the introduction; the endpapers are a map, with Communist countries in red)

The terms Iron Curtain, Cold War, and Communism are defined on the page after the introduction.

Somewhat difficult to read aloud: story text in third person goes along the bottom of the page ("After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told to at school"), while above, comic panels in black and white with spot color (usually red) have captions in the margins on either side ("Everything from the West seems colorful and desirable"). However, the relatively recent era, with references to pop culture like the Beatles and blue jeans, makes it easier to imagine the reality.

Some spreads break up this format with dated entries from his journals (1954-1977), surrounded by a border of relevant illustrations in small boxes. The final spread reads, "Sometimes dreams come true. On November 9, 1989, the wall fell," followed by an Afterword.

See also: The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin ( )
  JennyArch | Mar 24, 2022 |
The Wall is author and illustrator Peter Sis's memoir describing growing up 'behind the Iron Curtain' in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. Told through illustrations, journals, photographs, childhood drawings, literal and figurative maps, Sis recounts a happy childhood and adolescence, realization of the oppressive regime, and dreaming of freedom until the fall of the Berlin Wall followed by Czechoslovakia's freedom in 1989.

Stark illustrations of black ink on white paper is sparsely and impactfully accented with only red until "bits and pieces of the West begin to slip through the Iron Curtain." The illustrations reflect the increasing access to Western culture with bits of bright color and return to restrictions with a return black, white and red.

**Sibert Award, Caldecott Honor Book ( )
  NClegern | Jul 29, 2021 |
A children's book about growing up under Soviet rule, where the common good was always emphasized and individualism suppressed. Peter Sis's illustrations are the high point of a children's history of the end of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. Disappointing. 2.5 stars. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
I enjoyed this picture book for its illustrations and its look at the history of the Czech Republic through the eyes of a person who came of age during the occupations and the turbulence. ( )
  beebeereads | May 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices 2008)
Renowned author and illustrator Peter Sís’ brilliant autobiographical exploration of the creative spirit offers his trademark blend of intricate visual images and narrative. Sís was born in Communist-controlled Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1949 and displayed artistic interests from very early on. His talents were indulged and encouraged within his home. At the same time, creativity and freedom of thought were being repressed in his school and throughout his homeland as the Iron Curtain rose and the Cold War escalated. Sís beautifully outlines the tension between socio-political repression and creativity through journal excerpts, actual drawings from his developing years as an artist, and hauntingly complex images outlining the historical context of turbulent times in Eastern Europe. Each image underscores how he questioned the world around him as a developing child and adolescent, especially as news of Western popular culture filtered through the curtain. Creative expression and opportunity exploded for the author in the spring of 1968, only to be crushed quickly by the totalitarian strong arm. Sís was able to hold on to his dreams, however, fueled by his indomitable spirit and the force of his own imagination. CCBC Category: Historical People, Places, and Events. 2007, Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus and Giroux, 48 pages, $18.00. Age 9 and older.

added by kthomp25 | editCCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices 2008) (Apr 23, 2010)
 
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As long as he could remember, he had loved to draw.
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I find it difficult to explain my childhood; it's hard to put it into words, and since I have always drawn everything, I have tried to draw my life-before America-for them.
p. 47
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side - the Communist side - of the Iron Curtain. Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sis shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Si;s learned about beat poetry, rock 'n' roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities - creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

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