Books, Geography, History

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Wall

Author/Illustrator: Peter Sis
Publication Info: Macmillan’s Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-374-34701-7
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

21 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Wall”

  1. Another great choice! I am fascinated with this subject, as I was working for the military when the wall came down. And, I love that it is told from a child’s viewpoint. It’s important that kids understand this period of history. Great choice for today.

    1. Somehow I knew you would respond to this book, Pat. I’m always fascinated by the situations children can overcome. It’s a great read and a good way for children to understand the period.

  2. Is this a hand bound book? I like the cover. I don’t know much about communism and the iron wall, but I love stories from childrens’ points of view. And the illustrations look very unique. Thanks for sharing this one.

  3. This sounds really good, Kirsten. A great addition for older readers. Have you ever read Forging Freedom by Hudson Talbot? It’s the story of Jaap Penrat who helped get a lot of people to freedom by forging identity cards and other documents for them – really amazing. I got to hear him speak once. I’m not sure it qualifies as a picture book, but you’ve reminded me of it and now I want to go find it and see if I could add it to our list 🙂

  4. This was very interesting to read. I have read a couple of Sis’ work. My husband and I visited the Wall three months before it came down, and our last visit to Europe we spent a few days in Prague. Amazing cities they hold a great deal of history which fascinates us. Excellent choice for PPBF.

    1. I have always wanted to go to Prague. When I was in college, I dreamed of working for an expat newspaper there. I never got the courage to make the leap, but I still plan to get to Prague some day.

  5. Great review, Kirsten. It’s nice to see books specifically for older readers. That must have been a fascinating time to live through in Germany!

  6. This is definitely one for my reading list! thanks for sharing it. For older kids there’s a novel called “Breaking Stalin’s Nose” that is about growing up behind that infamous curtain.

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