Play, Mozart, Play! ) by his children (“Are you a settler, Dad?”), the author pairs his remarkable artistr"/>

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Peter Sis, Author . FSG/Foster $18 (56p) ISBN 978-0-374-34701-7

Born out of a question posed to Sís (Play, Mozart, Play! ) by his children (“Are you a settler, Dad?”), the author pairs his remarkable artistry with journal entries, historical context and period photography to create a powerful account of his childhood in Cold War–era Prague. Dense, finely crosshatched black-and-white drawings of parades and red-flagged houses bear stark captions: “Public displays of loyalty—compulsory . Children are encouraged to report on their families and fellow students. Parents learn to keep their opinions to themselves.” Text along the bottom margin reveals young Sís’s own experience: “He didn’t question what he was being told. Then he found out there were things he wasn’t told.” The secret police, with tidy suits and pig faces, intrude into every drawing, watching and listening. As Sís grows to manhood, Eastern Europe discovers the Beatles, and the “Prague Spring of 1968” promises liberation and freedom. Instead, Soviet tanks roll in, returning the city to its previous restrictive climate. Sís rebels when possible, and in the book’s final spreads, depicts himself in a bicycle, born aloft by wings made from his artwork, flying toward America and freedom, as the Berlin Wall crumbles below. Although some of Sís’s other books have their source in his family’s history, this one gives the adage “write what you know” biting significance. 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. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/09/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
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