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Winner of the 2008 Robert F. Sibert Award
Born out of a question posed to Sís (Play, Mozart, Play!) by his children ("Are you a settler, Dad?"), the author pairs his remarkable artistry with journal entries, historical context and period photography to create a powerful account of his childhood in Cold War-era Prague. Dense, finely crosshatched black-and-white drawings of parades and red-flagged houses bear stark captions: "Public displays of loyalty-compulsory. Children are encouraged to report on their families and fellow students. Parents learn to keep their opinions to themselves." Text along the bottom margin reveals young Sís's own experience: "He didn't question what he was being told. Then he found out there were things he wasn't told." The secret police, with tidy suits and pig faces, intrude into every drawing, watching and listening. As Sís grows to manhood, Eastern Europe discovers the Beatles, and the "Prague Spring of 1968" promises liberation and freedom. Instead, Soviet tanks roll in, returning the city to its previous restrictive climate. Sís rebels when possible, and in the book's final spreads, depicts himself in a bicycle, born aloft by wings made from his artwork, flying toward America and freedom, as the Berlin Wall crumbles below. Although some of Sís's other books have their source in his family's history, this one gives the adage "write what you know" biting significance. Younger readers have not yet had a graphic memoir with the power of Mausor Persepolisto call their own, but they do now. Ages 8-up. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
—The New York Times Book Review
“Sís’ most ambitious and personal book.” —USA TODAY
“A sophisticated and sobering picture book exposé.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“The Wall makes for irresistible reading.”—Washington Post Book World
“Mr. Sís's account belongs as much in the living room as it does in the nursery.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Peter Sís [is a] master of the not-necessarily-for-children picture book.” —The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Peter Sís's The Wall... may be his finest book to date - no small feat. "—The Boston Globe
"Glorious artwork." —Elle
"Will both engross and haunt his audience.” —Starred, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Complex, multifaceted, rich in detail . . . [Sís’s] concluding visions of freedom are both poignant and exhilarating.”—Starred, School Library Journal
"A masterpiece for readers young and old."—Starred, Kirkus Reviews
"Younger readers have not yet had a graphic memoir with the power of Maus or Persepolis to call their own, but they do now."—Starred, Publishers Weekly
“The deployment of media choices and color throughout the book is both expert and telling: bold, stark black marker for an invading Soviet tank, dreamy blue crayon for the night the Beach Boys played Prague . . . a comprehensive portrait of an era, an artist, and the persistence of the latter in the face of the former.” —Starred, The Horn Book
“A powerful combination of graphic novel and picture book . . . Terrific design dramatizes the conflict between conformity and creative freedom.” —Starred, Booklist
"Simply and effectively illustrates the history of Czechoslovakia's struggle with totalitarianism and evokes the dreams of his repressed people."—VOYA
“This stunning book is a MUST for anybody who is curious to learn about the world we live in!” —Milos Forman, Oscar winning-director of Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
“Peter Sís’s book is most of all about the will to live one’s life in freedom and should be required reading for all those who take their freedom for granted.” —Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic
“Peter Sís, who has entranced children and adults with his magical stories and drawings, has taken his talent to a new level. Peter, born to dream and draw, is now also teaching the tragic history of his native Czechoslovakia under communism in this beautiful, poignant, and important work for those of all ages.” —Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
“This extraordinary achievement is a powerful reminder of the hard-won freedoms that drew so many to this country's shores.” —Shelf Awareness
Posted May 12, 2011
This book is like a simplified autobiography of author and illustrator Peter Sís. With sparing words, detailed pictures, and informative captions, he creates a memoir of his days growing up in Communist Eastern Europe. Sís's use of black, white, and a little bit of red to depict one ideology and use of various colors to depict another ideology is a clever way to distinguish the two opposite sets of beliefs. Knowing the subject matter of his illustrations, this technique for symbolism also seems to be the most fitting way to portray such different thought processes. However, the factor that makes Sís's story so much more real to readers is the integration of his own personal journal entries that he wrote during that time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2010
Posted November 24, 2010
This was definitely an interesting way to learn a little bit about history and how it effects us today. The writing and illustrations are wonderfully colorful even though most are in black and white. This book is appropriate for children ages eight and up because it's a more colorful way of learning history, rather than reading it all in one large textbook. It's an insightful way to witness the aspects of history from a first person point of view and primary source. You'll get the full affect of history from someone who truly witnessed it first-hand! What better way to get your kids to grasp socialism than with a fun book who shows the true stories of what really happened? Although the truth in this book is great, I was more interested in how rock 'n roll helped to put a crack in the wall. But the best point of this story is how one boy's dreams were enough to influence him and give him the ambition to strive for freedom and the Americas. This is a great story to have in any library!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2009
Author Peter Sis does an excellent job describing his childhood during the Russian occupation of Prague. He tells his story through words, diary entries and his own illustrations. The simplistic pictures and heartfelt memories take the reader on a journey of censorship, Communism, Western influence and finally liberation. This story would work particularly well as a way to discuss with older children some of the basic freedoms that we in America take for granted.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 18, 2008
This book is absolutely awesome because, for the first time, it gives patriotic American parents a way to open their children's eyes to conditions otherwise unfathomable. How does one enable their child to understand what they can not comprehend for only having known America and it's system of liberty? The illustrations teach simply yet profoundly, how it FEELS to live under governmental oppression among a self-seeking and disloyal citizenry. (Such IS and ever will be the condition of mankind under communism and socialism.) You can FEEL the imagery of this true story - you can FEEL his heart breaking, questioning, wondering, suffocating. The witness he bears in pictures is so powerful! My educational background in German and Russian languages centered much of my study in the history of these peoples. I have been looking, for years, for a way to teach my children how terrible that system was - I walked the streets of East Berlin after the Wall fell and was appalled - I wanted some way to teach them not to take their freedoms for granted, but to fiercely cling to their liberties. There are other good children's book but THIS book, in particular, is a wonderful way to introduce your children to the value of Bill of Rights, the Consitution and the Declaration of Independence. WHY they are worth living and dying for? This is why! As a religious conservative, I am troubled by current political and societal trends in our country... new progressive packaging for old pinko ideas. I do not believe I am the only parent in the US who recognizes the disturbing trend public sentiment is taking toward willing the rise of socialism here. I, for one, shall use this book as a tool to teach my children how to recognize creeping evil and what is slowly beginning to happen here, in our very own land... and why they must be morally courageous in fighting it, as hard as they can and as long as they can... starting with for whom they choose to vote. Call it the children's version of Jonah Goldberg's 'Liberal Fascism'. It is a word of warning by setting forth the pattern of all the baby steps it takes to see a nation fall.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2007
The Wall is a masterpiece. While it is in the form of a children's picture book, it is really a fascinating memoir about life under communism in Prague and the liberation of the spirit through art and music. This is the type of uplifting story that can be shared and enjoyed by a parent with a son or daughter. Sis's line drawings are simple, exquisite, and full of delight.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2007
I was blown away by the meticulous line work of the author and illustrator of the book, Peter Sis. This book is compelling not just as a children book, but is to be appreciated for the artwork contained within as well. It is reminiscent of some of Edward Gorey's work. A must see for art fans!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 18, 2010
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Posted October 20, 2010
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