Author/Illustrator: Peter Sis
Publication Info: Macmillan’s Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Source: Personal collection
Intended audience: ages 8 and up
Genre: picture book (nonfiction)
Themes/topics: world history, communism, the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, Czechoslovakia, autobiography
Opening and synopsis: “As long as he could remember, he had loved to draw. At first he drew shapes. Then he drew people. After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told at school.”
This multi-layered, picture-book autobiography recounts Peter Sis’s life growing up in communist Czechoslovakia. Sis writes the main narrative in simple sentences. However, he rings that simple narrative with drawings, captions, excerpts from his journals and historical timeline information.
Why I like this book: This book was a library-book-sale find. I lived in West Germany when The Wall crumbled, and so Sis’s story spoke to me. Later I found out this book is a Caldecott honor book and earned starred reviews upon publication. I definitely think this book is for upper elementary students. The topics of communism, the Cold War and the Iron Curtain are certainly too complex for young readers. However, this book would be a wonderful way to explore how children experienced communism first-hand.
- A teacher’s guide is available here.
- Multimedia resources including an author interview about the book are available on here.
- The New York Times’s Learning Network has a number of Cold War resources.
- Teachers Pay Teachers has several free lesson plans and other resources.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site