[[ download ePUB ]] The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain Author Peter Sís – Sisnlaw.co.uk

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain As I read The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis, I was thinking back to my visit to Prague a few years ago and tried to imagine what it must have been like to grow up there when Peter Sis did The Prague I saw was nothing like the government controlled, society censored, and creativity crusher that he describes in this intricate story When I was in Prague, it was as if the citizens were making up for all the lost time under Communist rule Women in provocative clothes propos As I read The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis, I was thinking back to my visit to Prague a few years ago and tried to imagine what it must have been like to grow up there when Peter Sis did The Prague I saw was nothing like the government controlled, society censored, and creativity crusher that he describes in this intricate story When I was in Prague, it was as if the citizens were making up for all the lost time under Communist rule Women in provocative clothes propositioned everyone who walked by, including me The shops were wallpapered with t shirts sporting Western bands and famous people some t shirts were subtle with sexual entendre, but a majority were boldly sporting naked bodies and overt sexual positions or comments There was electricity in the air, and the people of Prague seemed genuinely happy and good natured I thought then that there seemed to be a party atmosphere, and had I read The Wall before going, I would ve understood why I had that impression It was almost as if they were basking in freedom, making up for lost time I walked miles around Prague, engaged in conversation with the locals, bought beautiful crystals, and watched the astronomical clock chime on the hour, and thought what a charming place it was A typical tourist without any appreciation for the people of Czechoslovakia had been through After reading Peter Sis book, I m embarrassed that I didn t know how oppressed people under Communist rule really were, and I did not appreciate the history of such a beautiful place while I was there I m embarrassed that I didn t know people who lived behind the Iron Curtain were denied art, music, and books I m horrified that people were spied on and turned in to the government by suspicious neighbors I grew up during the Cold War, but it was one of those things that existed in the background of American children We knew Communists were bad, but I never really got it What a history lesson The Wall was for me I was immediately captivated with the first words, 1948 The Soviets take control of Czechoslovakia and close the borders, and hung on every word after that I could almost hear an iron door slam As I began reading the pictures and that is what one will do with this book, I was drawn in first by the shot of red in each picture It became a sort of Where s Waldo of the Wall Where will the Reds appear My eyes would wander over the incredible detail in each picture, and I d marvel at the intricacies of each picture The story is extraordinary descriptive, yet simple enough to understand, moving at a pace that grips the reader Combined with the concise text, I found myself on the edge of my seat reading it intently Three times it took me to make sure I was seeing everything I needed to see in his pictures, and each time I saw a new detail and new information I recently read Snow by Uri Shulevitz to my Kindergarten and 1st graders It was during the first snowfall of the season, so I went to my shelves and pulled out this Caldecott Honor Book I remember thinking what a perfect book it was for that day The pictures in Snow are primarily gray and stark, and we were having a gray Chicago day Swollen snow was starting to come down and gather on the frozen ground Everything around us was dull At the time we had fun counting the snowflakes on the pages, looking at how creepy some of the pictures were, and commenting about how excited the children were that it was starting to snow outside in their world, just like the little boy in the book But after reading The Wall, I have a totally different perception of Snow The village looks like a Russian village under Communist rule Like The Wall, there is very little color and what color is on the pages of these books expresses generally the joy,happiness and imagination of a child Snow was first published in 1998 which surprised me because I was convinced it had been published in the 1950s and had been reprinted The book gives a very distinct feel that it took place decades earlier during the Cold War I can t help but wonder if Shulevitz was writing a metaphor for the same period of time that The Wall takes place I m probably really late to this ah ha moment I highly recommend both of these books perhaps even together, in a lesson about the Cold War Adults and children who read these books will get a very good picture literally of what it was like to live behind the Iron Curtain Please note that while I am most definitely rather left of centre economically and therefore consider myself a social democrat, I have actually politically NEVER been in any manner enamoured of Communism especially Stalinism and its state run dictatorial collectivism and have therefore and for that very reason also always despised the dictatorships that proliferated behind the so called Iron Curtain in countries like the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland et al An Please note that while I am most definitely rather left of centre economically and therefore consider myself a social democrat, I have actually politically NEVER been in any manner enamoured of Communism especially Stalinism and its state run dictatorial collectivism and have therefore and for that very reason also always despised the dictatorships that proliferated behind the so called Iron Curtain in countries like the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland et al And because I do tend to enjoy biographies and autobiographies, I was actually very much looking forward to reading Peter S s The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, the award winning picture book about S s childhood in Communist Stalinist Czechoslovakia However, and frustratingly sadly, from the small amount of presented text in The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain which I have actually been physically able to easily peruse for the font size of Peter S s narrative is in fact so problematically minuscule that even with my strongest reading glasses, I have had not only a considerable amount of trouble even figuring out the semantics, the meanings of many, of most of the words, I also ended up with a massive eye strain induced tension headache , I can only say with both head shaking and truly angry consternation that from its general tone, from its scope and presentation, its set up and expression that Peter S s The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain is really and in my opinion not all that much different from and thus not all that much better than Communist propaganda leaflets and books, that Peter S s textual tone of voice, that his attitude whilst criticising and fighting against Communism, against Stalinism is at least for and to me so similar in feel and general scope, so alike and akin in extremism and one sidedness to the latter to the Stalinism he claims to despise that while reading The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, I was very uncomfortably and sadly often strongly reminded of the kind of words and expressions used by Erich Honecker, Nicolai Ceausescu, Marshall Tito et al not so much economically, but yes, politically and rhetorically And while I do in fact and indeed very much agree with the author s assessment of the Iron Curtain and in all ways totally share Peter S s anger against Stalinism and what transpired post WWII in Central and Eastern Europe, his massive onesidedness, S s textual propagandistic didacticism, well it just makes me majorly cringe and despair and to the extent that I have to now at least partially consider Peter S s as a person, as an individual who at least politically seems to be rather extremist himself and in fact on that front very much akin to that and those whom he criticises and claims to condemn And thus, only one star for The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, as aside from the to and for me supremely problematic and propaganda heavy, didactic narrative tone of political voice, I am indeed also pretty much sick and tired of the fact that Peter S s continuously presents his picture book offerings in font sizes that in my opinion are generally easy to read only for those of us with proverbial eagle eyes and while I did kind of enjoy the accompanying illustrations, they are not nearly enough for me to consider a higher personal star rating for The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, its Caldecott Honour designation notwithstanding Iron Curtain The boundary that symbolically, ideologically, and physically divided Europe into two separate areas after World War II Cold War The geopolitical, ideological, and economic struggle that emerged between capitalism and communism from 1945 to 1991.Communism The ideology of the Soviet Union and other countries a system of government in which the state controls all social and economic activity These basic terms lay the foundation for this graphic memoir, in which Sis recounts his Iron Curtain The boundary that symbolically, ideologically, and physically divided Europe into two separate areas after World War II Cold War The geopolitical, ideological, and economic struggle that emerged between capitalism and communism from 1945 to 1991.Communism The ideology of the Soviet Union and other countries a system of government in which the state controls all social and economic activity These basic terms lay the foundation for this graphic memoir, in which Sis recounts his childhood and adolescence in Soviet controlled Czechoslovakia As a budding and talented artist, he eventually realizes how propaganda has blinded many including himself to the reality of a state controlled regime Freedom was an idea he dreamed about and drew, especially during and after The Prague Spring Because of its size and shape, I mistook this for a children s picture book, and I was way wrong This is a densely written and illustrated graphic memoir for young adults Highly recommend Totalitarian regimes make for good children s books They just do What could beinherently exciting plot wise than a world in which you never know who to trust Where children report parents to the police and freedom and creativity are stifled under the boots of oppressors That makes for good copy This year alone we ve the Cultural Revolution book, The Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine and the much discussed Peter Sis title, The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Totalitarian regimes make for good children s books They just do What could beinherently exciting plot wise than a world in which you never know who to trust Where children report parents to the police and freedom and creativity are stifled under the boots of oppressors That makes for good copy This year alone we ve the Cultural Revolution book, The Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine and the much discussed Peter Sis title, The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain The Wall brings together your standard gorgeous Peter Sis imagery with content that is sure to cause debate and interest Though it s not a book I would necessarily site as a personal favorite and that I have a couple issues with, I appreciate that Sis has created something worth discussing with kids, teens, and adults alike.This is certainly an earnest book Not humorless, but certainly gung ho in its love of all things American It s difficult to criticize a book on that basis since what Sis has gone through is unlike anything I could understand or appreciate The book feels like a cathartic release but it lacks distance There s a danger of the author being almost too close to his material Compare The Wall to Persepolis and you see the difference The content is similar but the approach varies wildly Satrapi is part of the story and, at the same time, removed She doesn t simplify the story into strict terms, but instead allows the audience to draw their own conclusions based on the information she presents to you I just don t feel that Sis has done that here He tells you what to think of the subject matter and when to think it For example, without batting an eye he suggests that Europe is said to contain, Truth Integrity Honor Liberty Virtue, etc while on the East side of the Berlin Wall there is only, Envy Stupidity Lies, and so forth He has every right to do so, particularly when you consider that this may be an image of what the young Sis believed lay in the West rather than what was really there Unfortunately, as it currently stands, the image suggests that the readership not draw their own conclusions and accept the Virtue on top of Western Europe and the Envy on top of the Eastern half Even the oppressors are featured with pig noses rather than looking like average everyday joes How muchinteresting it might have been to make the bad guys as human as the good guys How muchinteresting if, like Satrapi, he d been able to take that one baby step backwards and not tell us what to believe.Sis hasn t won a Caldecott Award proper quite yet He s been honored for Tibet Through the Red Box and Starry Messenger not Tree of Life , bizarrely but The Wall is bound to be the best bet he s had yet It s a beautiful book and no one is going to contest that Shoot, it s already gotten at least four starred reviews in professional journals and is bound to garner someCome award season it ll sweep the nominations and everyone will get to hear a lovely Peter Sis speech he s a very good public speaker and it will all be lovely and droll I don t object to the book winning, but I do wish the heavy hand guiding it could have trusted the audience a little and not spelled out its message quite so blatantly i.e America to the rescue It s quite an accomplishment but one that could have stood a drop of irony in the mix This book is simply fantastic For anyone who wants to know what life was really like growing up behind the iron curtain in general, orspecifically in Czechoslovakia.For anyone who wants their kids to know what communism really means.For anyone who enjoys wonderfully perceptive drawings, however crude or complex, with minimal, but telling text.For anyone who grew up in the 50s 70s who knew something about what was happening in eastern Europe then, but did does not quite know for sure For This book is simply fantastic For anyone who wants to know what life was really like growing up behind the iron curtain in general, orspecifically in Czechoslovakia.For anyone who wants their kids to know what communism really means.For anyone who enjoys wonderfully perceptive drawings, however crude or complex, with minimal, but telling text.For anyone who grew up in the 50s 70s who knew something about what was happening in eastern Europe then, but did does not quite know for sure For anyone who wants to know how the Soviet Union kept control of this country, and several others for 40 years, but then lost it.For anyone who thinks socialism works, or is the wave of the future or is inevitable.I recommend this book for you Buy it, read it in about 30 60 minutes , discuss it with anyone, give a copy to a friend and cherish it It is brilliant Caldecott honor book and winner of the Robert Sibert Medal this incredibly detailed book functions on a number of levels It is simultaneously a written history of Czechoslovakia twice invaded by the Soviets, an autobiography of the author s life behind the Iron Curtain and a graphic novel detailing historical and personal events This book could be used by grades 4th through High School The detailed pictures represent historical and biographical events clearly from a personal perspective The Caldecott honor book and winner of the Robert Sibert Medal this incredibly detailed book functions on a number of levels It is simultaneously a written history of Czechoslovakia twice invaded by the Soviets, an autobiography of the author s life behind the Iron Curtain and a graphic novel detailing historical and personal events This book could be used by grades 4th through High School The detailed pictures represent historical and biographical events clearly from a personal perspective The text comes in two formats, simple descriptive captions at the bottom of each page and detailed journal entries givinginformation about the author and others who lived behind the Iron Curtain The pictures and drawings openly depict the danger and repression faced by invaded Czechoslovakia on a daily basis.Most importantly this book allows readers with a wide range of reading styles and abilities to access the same historical information I would definitely recommend this as a personal read or use it as a group resource where I knew or suspected reading levels would vary.Reviews 1 Booklist starred September 1, 2007 Vol 104, No 1 Grades 7 10 a powerful combination of graphic novel and picture book.., Written in several stands, the somewhat fragmented narrative never dilutes the impact of the boldly composed panels depicting scenes from S s infancy through young adulthood younger readers may lose interest as the story moves past his childhood, and most will lack crucial historical context But this will certainly grab teens 2 Kirkus Review starred July 15, 2007 As in all of S s s works, much is going on here, and readers will want to read it through, and then pore over the illustrations A masterpiece for readers young and old afterword Nonfiction 8 3 Publishers Weekly July 9, 2007 Younger readers have not yet had a graphic memoir with the power of Maus or Persepolis to call their own, but they do now Ages 8 up Despite the difference in age recommendation I find these reviews very useful in deciding how, when and if to use this book This is kind of like a Kundera novel for kids, but told with lots of pictures and not so many words Better than some of the Kundera books I have read, like say Immortality, but not others Is it right to even be comparing Kundera to a children s book Not growing up in a totalitarian regime, I don t really know what it is like, and I have a feeling that compared to even a sliver of what life was like under Soviet rule the freedoms of the West are glorious, but there is quite a bit of almost col This is kind of like a Kundera novel for kids, but told with lots of pictures and not so many words Better than some of the Kundera books I have read, like say Immortality, but not others Is it right to even be comparing Kundera to a children s book Not growing up in a totalitarian regime, I don t really know what it is like, and I have a feeling that compared to even a sliver of what life was like under Soviet rule the freedoms of the West are glorious, but there is quite a bit of almost cold war era propaganda seeming to go on in this book An us and them kind of dichotomy that makes me feel uneasy, and a little fearful about the old uncritical rah rah of American and Western freedoms being given in a diluted form to kids I thought we were past this kind of cold war ideology being forced on kids, but then I have to think that this is one man s experience, and that kids really don t necessarily need to be exposed to the reality of American imperialism I liked the artwork though It goes without saying The Wall is a valuable history lesson, but also a blueprint for an emotional story of a young man whose imagination and creativity allowed him to endure the times of political hardship The colours in the book are one of the main sources of emotional messages The red Soviet star symbolises an utter subordination of the people controlled by the political apparatus and the red colour seems to be present in all the pictures of the boy s childhood, which means the domestic li It goes without saying The Wall is a valuable history lesson, but also a blueprint for an emotional story of a young man whose imagination and creativity allowed him to endure the times of political hardship The colours in the book are one of the main sources of emotional messages The red Soviet star symbolises an utter subordination of the people controlled by the political apparatus and the red colour seems to be present in all the pictures of the boy s childhood, which means the domestic life in those times was permeated by the political forces The title page is also highly metaphorical a brick wall enclosed by barbed wire also conveys a sense of imprisonment and perpetual confinement The boy s pictures are always colourful, while the reality shrivels in gray hues, even the drawings the children are creating at school are vibrant in colours a sign that a child s imagination is a powerful force.The figure of the father suddenly becomes transformed into a pig resembling human, as, in fact, do all the people who comply with the political terror The boy, however, always remains his own man The visual narrative is conducted in manifold techniques the diary pages are an example of the interconnection of text and picture, the photographs, drawings and various pictures illustrating a gradual growth of the main character Peter Sis lets the reader into the intimate world of his personal development The text concerning historical developments is interspersed with the narrative on the boy s story, which creates an intriguing juxtaposition between the inner and outer life of the boy and his coping with reality by dint of imagination The boy is initially influenced by the system, the first diary pages show how mechanically he repeats what everybody around him is saying, but his perception and opinions undergo radical changes The Western influence bolsters his inspiration for a change, that is also illustrated by the vertigo picture of change and the revolutionary changes in culture and politics that the year 1968 induced The diary records a consistent shift in his attitude, he becomes creatively and politically active The picture of the labirynth with red tanks is striking along with the allusion to Edvard Munch s painting The Scream, which conveys a sense of terror and fear The narrative is usually placed within the comic strip order of pictures, but whenever something happens that is momentous the concert, the process of brainwashing, 1968, the tanks the pictures become bigger in size to show a sense of scale, awe and sheer emotion.In conclusion, it is a worthy lesson of history worth recommending to everybody Peter Sis manages to blend history and personal narrative, conjuring a nostalgic ambience combined with political relevance Life was tough in Czech during the cold war It sounds like a very horrible way to live They did have an opening up in Czech during 1968 and Western culture was let into the country and it changed the country forever There were even able to travel into the west The youth there embraced and yearned for the Western ideas I learned an awful lot from this book Peter Sis basically gives us a biography of growing up behind the wall That brainwashing during childhood sounds terrible, but it s als Life was tough in Czech during the cold war It sounds like a very horrible way to live They did have an opening up in Czech during 1968 and Western culture was let into the country and it changed the country forever There were even able to travel into the west The youth there embraced and yearned for the Western ideas I learned an awful lot from this book Peter Sis basically gives us a biography of growing up behind the wall That brainwashing during childhood sounds terrible, but it s also obvious from the story that it didn t last either People longed for color and that feeling of being alive Western music lifted their spirits Things were so bleak there The artwork is rather bleak being all black and white, but he does throw in some color to express those feelings of freedom It s very well done I enjoyed the book.The niece and nephew didn t know what to make of this book They couldn t believe stuff like this could happen Children telling on their parents and everyone being watched They didn t like how this felt They thought it was a weird story The nephew gave it 2 stars and the niece gave it 3 stars I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side the Communist side of the Iron Curtain Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter S s shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe But adolescence brought questions Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country S s learned about beat poetry, rock n roll, blue jeans, and Coca Cola He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band Then came the Prague Spring of , and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time It was short lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet led invasion But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed By joining memory and history, S s takes us on his extraordinary journey from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art


About the Author: Peter Sís

PETER S S is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, filmmaker, painter and author Born in 1949 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and grew up in Prague He studied painting and filmmaking at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and the Royal College of Art in London His animated work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art He came to America in 1982, and now lives in New York s Hudson Valley with his family Peter S s is the first children s book artist to be named a MacArthur Fellow In 2012 he won The Hans Christian Andersen Award.His many distinguished books include Starry Messenger Galileo Galilei, Tibet Through the Red Box, Madlenka, Rainbow Rhino, The Tree of Life Charles Darwin, The Wall Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, and The Conference of the Birds.


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