The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain Book Poster Image

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain



Award-winner shows child's view of the Cold War.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The artist participates in peaceful demonstrations.

Violence & scariness

Mentions of a riot after a concert, men hijacking a plane, imprisonment, and death.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this serious book deserves time and close attention. There are many big political and philosophical ideas and mentions of events that may disturb some children, including a plane hijacking, imprisonments, and deaths.

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What's the story?

The author shares his childhood and young adulthood in communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War era and his eventual escape to the West.

Is it any good?


A unique autobiography, THE WALL gives an accessible child's-eye view of communism in Czechoslovakia. It's a heavy topic but one handled admirably by Peter Sis who 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 also allowed him to wrestle 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about and compare what was happening in America during that time. Are grandparents available to share their own memories of the cold war era? Families can also explore the Western cultural touchstones that meant so much to Sis -- the Beach Boys, the Beatles. What other art forms have been used in political revolution?

Book details

Author:Peter Sis
Illustrator:Peter Sis
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:August 1, 2007
Number of pages:56
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

THE COLD WAR KID a touching but mature subject

Peter Sis is the best illustrator i will veer know, his unique dot style really impresses me. Though his knew book may be a little hard on kids, and i highly recommend reading w/ parents. The story is about the author and his brutal childhood on being the cold war kid, with beautiful montages filling up each page. Adults will also want to read this, not only because of its pictures, but because it is a war-type subject adults will be interested in. A superb book.