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|Wall : growing up behind the Iron Curtain|
Author: Sis, Peter
A personal history of the Cold War as experienced by a boy growing up under Communism in Czechoslovakia.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.20
Points: 1.0 Quiz: 117633
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 4.30
Points: 3.0 Quiz: 42030
Caldecott Honor, 2008
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, 2008
Common Core Standards
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → History/Social Studies
CC Maps Recommended Works Gde K-5
Grade 4 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 4.RI Key Ideas & Details
Grade 4 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 4.RI Craft & Structure
Grade 4 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 4.RI Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
Grade 4 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 4.RI Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 4 → Reading → RI Informational Text → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 4 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 5.RI Key Ideas & Details
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 5.RI Craft & Structure
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 5.RI Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → 5.RI Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 5 → Reading → RI Informational Text → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 5 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Kirkus Reviews (07/15/07)
School Library Journal (+) (00/08/07)
Booklist (+) (09/01/07)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (10/07)
The Hornbook (+) (09/07)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 10/01/2007 Thirty sentences, give or take the odd ellipsis, form the armature upon which Sís recontructs his early growth as an artist, and a few dozen journal entries add a lean layer of flesh to the tale. The real substance of this inventively fashioned autobiography, however, lies in the images—some tidily sequential, others boldly sprawling double bleeds—that trace Sís’ creative journey from a toddler compelled to doodle to a young professional compelled to leave his native Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s for liberty in the West. And if readers just happen to find themselves inadvertently expanding their knowledge of the Cold War, that makes their own literary journey all the richer. Baby Peter, paper and pencil in hand and head turned to an impossible rotation, glances over his shoulder in the opening scene to fix his audience with sky-blue eyes of astonishing clarity and near magnetic force (the text reads, “As long as he could remember, he had loved to draw”). Boxing in the baby are three additional lines of fine-print text defining the Iron Curtain, the Cold War, and Communism, the intangible entities that will form a restrictive perimeter around his life over the coming thirty-some years. In the following pages, a series of small scenes finely textured in black ink introduce us to a happy little kid who’s free to draw anything he likes in his own home, safe in the care of his obviously loving parents. A splash of Communist red infiltrates each frame, though, usually in the guise of a flag or a ubiquitous star, and by the time Sís leaves the nest and has to draw “what he is told to at school,” flashes of red have made their way into Young Pioneers neckerchiefs, hammer and sickle paintings on the classroom easels, missiles sprouting from a map of Cuba, bloodstains pocking the dying John Kennedy slumped in his Dallas limo. There’s no escaping the pervasive influence of global political drama, and in this “time of brainwashing,” an enormous red cloud bearing a host of Russian leaders tails the young boy as he walks down Prague’s cobbled streets. The first of three sets of journal entries closes out this segment, presenting Sís’ own youthful take on events (“The Soviet Union launched a rocket carrying a little dog named Laika into space. I wonder how the dog is going to land?”), and offering clues to readers on the content of several of the scenes they had just witnessed. A turn of the page brings an unexpected smattering of fresh hues as Sís begins to question the party line and, under the relatively liberal leadership of Alexander Dubcek, the Prague Spring of 1968 explodes with the music of the Beatles, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones. Now the preponderantly black-and-white images are sprinkled with colorful bits of Sís’ own work—roiling in the air above the apartment building, painted on a drum set, fastened to the wall—and a tiny monochromatic Sís cavorts through a fantasy panorama of players and symbols of the contemporary popular arts. Again a set of journal entries adds Sís’ personal commentary, and another page turn ushers in the grim crackdown of Soviet occupation as tanks roll into Prague and Sís’ world reverts to black, white, and red. Slowly, pockets of livelier color reemerge, evoking the rebellious spirit of muralists who wage a battle of wits and paint with the government, and in Sís’ paintings, which are attracting official censure. In the concluding segment, Sís dreams of escape, clutching his pictures under his arm as he bicycles through an imaginary landscape of wild plans to cross the Iron Curtain and finally taking flight across the Wall on the wings of his own artwork.Snippets of italicized commentary run along the sides of most pages, providing historical context in a timely and unobtrusive fashion (“June 17, 1969. The Prague [Beach Boys] concert takes place in Lucerna Hall. Police with dogs wait nearby”), and an afterword recaps thhe benchmarks of Sís’ early years and offers a bit more detail on how he came to reside in the United States. Nonetheless, it is Sís’ visual rendering that will both engross and haunt his audience—from the cutaways of clandestine activity behind walls that dutifully fly the red flag, to the pig-faced policemen and government spies that lurk throughout the scenes in an insidious, high-stakes game of Where’s Waldo? Student writers and artists who have butted heads with fidgety administrators—or any kids who are awakening to their First Amendment rights—can look right here for inspiration. - Copyright 2007 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 08/01/2007 Gr 4 Up-Personal, political, passionate-these are among the qualities that readers have come to appreciate about Sis's autobiographical books such as The Three Golden Keys (Doubleday, 1994) and Tibet through the Red Box (Farrar, 1998). This layered foray into family and Czech history begins with succinct sentences at the bottom of each page. Captions accompanying the art-arranged in panels of varying size-fill in more details. The pacing and design of the compositions create their own rhythm, contributing much to the resulting polyphony. Sis immediately engages even his youngest audience with a naked, cherubic self-portrait, colored pencil in hand. The ensuing scenes of home and community life in Prague, rendered predominantly in black and white, are punctuated with Communist red and tiny fragments of color as the young artist experiments in the face of rigid conformity. The third-person narration achieves an understatement that helps to mitigate the more disturbing descriptions found in his double-spread journal entries. Bordered by S's's youthful art, photographs, and propaganda posters, these selections depict his reality behind the Iron Curtain from 1954 to 1977. The recurring themes of music and art as important vehicles of self-expression, and the relationship between a government's inclination to embrace or suppress that creativity and the state's vitality, will resonate with teens. This celebration of the arts climaxes in a full-color spread ... la Peter Max. Complex, multifaceted, rich in detail, this book shares the artist's specific heritage while connecting to universal longings. His concluding visions of freedom are both poignant and exhilarating.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. - Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 09/01/2007 *Starred Review* In an autobiographical picture book that will remind many readers of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir Persepolis (2003), Sís’ latest, a powerful combination of graphic novel and picture book, is an account of his growing up in Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule. Written in several stands, the somewhat fragmented narrative never dilutes the impact of the boldly composed panels depicting scenes from Sís’ infancy through young adulthood. Throughout, terrific design dramatizes the conflict between conformity and creative freedom, often through sparing use of color; in many cases, the dominant palette of black, white, and Communist red threatens to swallow up young Peter’s freely doodled, riotously colored artwork. The panels heighten the emotional impact, as when Sís fleeing the secret police, emerges from one spread’s claustrophobic, gridlike sequence into a borderless, double-page escape fantasy. Even as they side with Peter against fearsome forces beyond his control, younger readers may lose interest as the story moves past his childhood, and most will lack crucial historical context. But this will certainly grab teens—who will grasp both the history and the passionate, youthful rebellions against authority—as well as adults, many of whom will respond to the Cold War setting. Though the term “picture book for older readers” has been bandied about quite a bit, this memorable title is a true example. - Copyright 2007 Booklist.