Rebecca's Reviews > The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

The Wall by Peter Sís
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's review
Dec 27, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: favoriteillustrations, graphic-novels, visualstorytelling, words-and-pictures
Recommended for: ages 8 and up
Read in December, 2007

I'm giving this book five stars because of the complex way it tells a seldom-told story. Peter Sis, whom we know and love from his books such as Tibet: Through the Red Box, grew up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, on the Communist side of the Iron Curtain. Although I know about this part of history, his details really drive home how stifling it is to live in a place where so much is censored, banned, jammed, controlled, and brainwashed.

This might be called a graphic novel memoir, or a picture book memoir, but it uses a strange storytelling device that allows it to be read on two levels. A simple narrative runs along the bottom of the pages, but many of the pictures are in sequential panels, with historical details packed into the margins. Other reviewers have complained about how jumping back and forth removes you from the story, but I think it allows you to read it at whichever level you feel like at the time. There are also journal entries, photographs, and posters to round out the glimpse into the past.

At any rate, I'm glad this is an illustrated memoir, because several of the images did what they do best: said more than words could say. After the book is closed, I'm still remembering the people playing music underground, the neighborhood painting the mural over and over when it was covered by the government, and the boy flying over the Wall on a bicycle, with wings made of drawings. Beautiful and educational.

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Comments (showing 1-3)

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message 3: by Tamara (new)

Tamara I think you should make a GoodReads bookshelf for all of the books you review that seem to have "ephemera" in them. The Lost Thing, House of Leaves, that one with all of the loose pieces of paper in it that you had sitting around Crestview for a while...It seems that there are a lot of them, and it is such a great genre that seems to be emerging. I wish I could remember them all!

Rebecca I once tried to change my "graphic novels" shelf to something more encompassing like "graphic novels and art books," but was unable to come up with anything satisfactory. I do think that a lot of my recent favorite books don't fit the standard "graphic novel" definition. What exactly do you mean by ephemera?

message 1: by Tamara (new)

Tamara I've had a really hard time describing "ephemera" to people, but I found two really good definitions:

"Printed material that was only meant to be used for a short time, but preserved by collectors. It could be anything from a bus ticket to a poster."

"Those bits of throwaway paper of every day life (eg: advertising, ticket stubs, programs, some booklets and pamphlets, etc.)"

Found magazine and book series would be a good example.

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