Parents' Guide to

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

By Dawn Friedman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Award-winning memoir shows artistic kid's view of Cold War.

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This unique autobiography gives an accessible child's-eye view of communism in Czechoslovakia. It's a heavy topic but one handled admirably by author-illustrator Peter Sis, who in The Wall intersperses excerpts from his journal with straightforward third-person narration and detailed illustrations. Sis knew he was an artist at a very early age. You see the way his art was shaped by the events around him as he grew up, and yet it also allowed him to wrest free of those cultural constraints. His meticulous pen and ink illustrations invite close attention. The use of splashes of color -- particularly the blood red representing communism -- is arresting and effective.

The history of that time was dense, and kids may need help understanding what was happening in the rest of the world at the time. They may also miss some of the touchstones that meant so much to Sis: bands like the Rolling Stones and tie-dying shirts. They might wonder why long hair was such a big deal, too. But the book offers a terrific opportunity for further discussion and exploration.

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