Mary's Library

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Wall

I've begun reading books from the Mock Newbery lists that libraries and bookstores create every year at this time.

The first book I read is The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis, a book for children aged 8 and up.

Born just after World War II, Sis was raised in Communist-controlled Cold-War Czechoslovakia, being indoctrinated at the state school, joining the Commnist youth organization, and not thinking much about the way the world around him worked. He spent his time and creative energy drawing.

The book shows some of the things Sis drew as a small child and then as a young man. There are brief quotes from his journal. He tells us what life was like in his country. Slowly over the years Western culture filtered through to Prague and he learned about blue jeans and the Beatles and rock music. He realized there were many things that the Czech people weren't being told by the government.

Sis devoted himself to his drawing. He grew increasingly skilled and eventually had a chance to travel in the West. He was in London when the Prague Spring, as the easing of Communist control was called, came to a sudden halt as the Russians sent tanks into Czechoslovakia and again the iron curtain rang down.

I was excited about this book and about to declare it, a bit prematurely, my choice for the medal. But then I picked up another book, and suddenly my perspective changed. More about that tomorrow.


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