A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
“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 Sís 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. Sís 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 1968, 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, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art.
The story unfolds in a word-and-picture montage consisting of a spare, fable-like narrative, introductory and closing notes, a historical timeline, diary excerpts, childhood drawings, family photos and, at the center of it all, a sequence of playful but intense pen-line drawings, many of them arrayed in storyboard panels…The Wall is a brave book for acknowledging, as Sis writes, "how easy it is to brainwash a child," and for taking on a serious subject at a time when feel-good children's books are widely assumed to be what sells. It is also a challenging book, and with its blizzard of fleeting references to everything from the Hungarian uprising to the Beach Boys, 8- and 9-year-olds will most likely need a parent or other handy font of knowledge to help them make their way to the end.