I was prepared to NOT like this one. That's the mind set I had when I brought it home. And so it's a surprise that I find myself writing this post. But doesn't everyone love a surprise?
|GORGEOUS front and back covers|
Publisher: Templar Books/Candlewick, 2014
Intended Age: 6-9 (NOT for the youngest)
Themes: Separation from a parent, History
My mom said that while the wall was being made,
our dad got stuck on the other side.
Synopsis: A little boy misses his father and is determined to reunite his family when they are separated by the Wall. (Berlin isn't mentioned in the text, only on the inside back jacket flap)
What I like about this book: I found myself holding my breath as I read. The tension and emotion swept me into the story. The graphic illustrations are eerily dark and foreboding. Perhaps because I'm an adult and I knew the reality of the situation it affected me more, but I think any child will connect with a child's longing to find their parent when forces they can't understand are keeping them apart.
The book jacket says that the story is based on historical true stories of escape from East Berlin but I agree with the New York Times review that this story feels more like fairy tale. The boy's heroic deed isn't entirely believable, nor the soldier's response at the climax, but it makes a time in history accessible to younger readers and can spark meaningful conversations about freedom and fairness.The emotional core of the story goes well beyond the specific event portrayed. And that's why it earned my personal recommendation. I hope readers SEE the back jacket flap information about Berlin. I think it would have worked better as back matter, but I guess there wasn't room.
NOTE: The story has powerful imagery. A parent should read the book first to determine if their child is old enough to process and appreciate the story without being upset. The soldiers in the story carry guns (shown in silhouette) and one single page that speaks to those who weren't lucky enough to escape shows the silhouette of a soldier carrying an apparently lifeless body with razor wire in the background. It is included in the CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2015 Preview in the K-2d grade category.
- Similar books for reading were recommended by critics at Kirkus reviews, including Peter Sis' THE WALL, James Rumford's SILENT MUSIC and Dr. Seuss' THE BUTTER BATTLE BOOK. According to the Amazon blurb, School Library Journal suggests:
"It could be paired with Jacqueline Woodson's The Other Side (Putnam, 2001) to compare and contrast it with the struggle for civil rights here in the United States. For a wider world view, another choice might be Sami and the Time of Troubles (Clarion, 1992) by Florence Heide, about a child growing up in war-torn Lebanon." (I don't have the print version of SLJ)
- The University of Texas has a two page worksheet about the Berlin wall appropriate for this age group.
- The National Education Association has a unit on the Berlin wall that is primarily targeted to high school students. The Royal Air Force Museum in England also has extensive resources.
- Tom Clohosy Cole is a freelance illustrator. His website has a large number of images posted, from grocery store murals, album covers, magazine covers to several spreads in WALL. Talk about the use of color. Tom was interviewed about his work on the NoBrow website.
Thanks again for stopping by!
Thanks, Wendy, for this post. I have not heard of this book. It sounds as if it would be a good fit for a social studies class studying that time period.ReplyDelete
Yes, Jane! It is evocative and a real conversation starter.Delete
Wow! I think I will also like this book. I read Peter Sis's Wall and loved it. It does look foreboding and scary and not quite up to be understood by younger kids.ReplyDelete
Thanks for recommending this one to us, Wendy! I loo k forward to reading it.
I hope you like it! The foreboding is tempered by a child's hope and persistence.Delete
This book reminds me of a MG novel I read as a child (9-10) with a similar title. I remember loving it. I like the sound of this book, and your review is excellent. It would work well for older kids. But I share your concern for a sensitive 6-year-old. It would depend upon the child. The book cover is stunning. Now I'm going to have to check this one out.ReplyDelete
I don't think it would necessarily terrify small children (Disney movies show worse!), but I don't think they would understand it either. So save it until they can.Delete
My library doen't have this one. I need to ask for three more books before March (We can ask for four books each month). I'm adding this one for me. Disney and an NPR report on the radio has already opened up the death/separation can of worms. But, Enzo has a work around - not to fear. I'll read and see if he will like/process it. Thanks.ReplyDelete
I just collected 7 requested books at the library today! It's lucky mine doesn't have a limit (of course, it would be nice too if they had more new books and I didn't have to request them but that's another issue). Enzo may be too little still. But I bet you will enjoy the preview.Delete
This looks fantastic! Not only do the illustrations look gorgeous, but it's on one of my favorite historical topics "The Berlin Wall." It's fascinated me ever since I watched the movie "Night Crossing" as a kid.ReplyDelete
It is definitely fiction/fantasy--not nonfiction. But it opens the topic of the wall for discussion.Delete
What a great find for older elementary children. I was in West Germany with East German and West German friends when the wall came down. Most kids know little to nothing of this. I was talking to a 21 year-old waiter in NYC a few weeks ago and he did not know about this!!ReplyDelete
Amazing. This book is needed!!Delete
This looks like a very powerful book. I love it when 1) you don't expect to like a picture book but do and 2) when you get swept up into a story. I've put this book on hold and look forward to reading it. I appreciate your advisory that it is for older children -- mine is probably a little too young for it now.ReplyDelete
Have you seen the movie Goodbye, Lenin? That's one of my favorites. It is about one family's reaction to the Berlin Wall coming down, and it, too, blew me away.
Thank you so much for sharing this book. I'm looking forward to reading it.
I enjoyed the re-read as much as the first time through. I will have to look up your movie rec!Delete
Wow! This sounds like a very powerful book, Wendy! I haven't read it yet, but it's on my must-read list now! I so appreciate your thoughtful inclusion of a note to parents to make sure the content is appropriate for their child before sharing it. A book like this is not for everyone... at least, not at too tender an age. Thanks so much for adding this one to our list!ReplyDelete
Glad to add it! I "meet" so many great books through the Perfect picture book Friday list. :)Delete