Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain

Author/Illustrator: Sís, Peter
Publisher and Date: Francis Foster Books 2007
Genre: Autobiography, Multicultural
Age Range: 3rd - 6th grades
Awards:Caldecott Honor Book 2008

Summary: The wall is a simple autobiography about growing up in a communist Czechoslovakia. The basic story told along the bottom of each page talks of his love for drawing, and how he grew up through that. The stories and facts throughout give a time line of the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Sís' personal journal entries give his insight to the events as they unfold.

Response: I absolutely loved this book! I enjoyed the illustrations with such detail and simple use of color. I also enjoy the many layers to this book. At first I thought it was just going to be a simple picture book, but I was able to learn from it myself.
My dad worked at a post somewhere along the Berlin Wall with the Army. He has told me some of what went on when he was over there so I was able to relate to some of the time line of events in the book. I've also read a lot about that even in school and I find it interesting how opposite the two sides of the city became when it was divided. The people on the Eastern side were in such desperation from being separated from their families and being trapped in by the Wall.
My favorite illustration in this book is the two page spread where the boy is using his dreams to fly and escape. He is up so high that he can see both sides of the divided city. On one side Sís uses warm colors and positive vocabulary such as liberty, joy, and virtue. The opposite side of the wall is accompanied by a gloomy blue-grey color with words such as suspicion, envy, and stupidity. I believe the mood of each side was portrayed very well.

Teaching Ideas: This book could easily be incorporated in history lesson in a range of grades. The simple story line and pictures could keep early readers captivated while the details and historical facts could capture an older audience. Students could discuss similarities and differences in a Democratic and Communist government system.
Time periods could also be discussed and how they were different in different countries. Western styles such as long hair, fashion, and music greatly influenced the rest of the world in the midst of the fighting.

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