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!