Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Using simple pictures with little color to great effect, Peter Sis tells his story of growing up in Czechoslovakia when the country was behind the Iron Curtain. Ostensibly for children, the book doesn't hold back from exploring the complexities of living under a Communist regime. The author shows how he was brainwashed as a child and told what to draw, and follows him through his teenage years when he awakened to much of the censorship and control going on around him.
This book is an excellent example of the way in which a story can be powerfully told in graphic form. The Introduction and Afterword serve as the text that grounds the story in history - both the general history of the Cold War, and Peter's personal history as he eventually leaves his home country behind. The images make up the bulk of the story, giving a bird's eye view as we very quickly go through twenty or so years of Peter's life and in how small the elements of the illustrations are. Most of the illustrations are black and white, except for the red of Communist flags and the colors of Peter's art. Clips from his journals serve both to move the story along through time and to give readers a fuller view of what's going on in Peter's life, including such things as the music that influenced him and photographs from his childhood. This is a really excellent, rich story that I highly recommend.