Author: Peter Sis
Genre: Graphic novel, memoir, non-fiction (Cold War)
Pages: 48 (not numbered)
Rating: 4 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Challenges: Graphic Novel Challenge (#7)
Summary: (from the inside flap): He was born in the middle of Europe in the middle of the twentieth century at the start of the Cold War. In his graphic memoir, Peter Sis tells what life was like for a boy who loved to draw and make music, who joined the Young Pioneers, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, passed Louis Armstrong in a snowstorm, longed for blue jeans and Beatles-style boots, let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, listened to jammed radio, and traveled with the Beach Boys when they toured Czechoslovakia. Peter Sis' story of growing up under a totalitarian regime proves that creativity can be discouraged but not easily killed, and that the desire to be free came naturally to a generation of young people behind the Iron Curtain.
Review: I started this book last night as I was going to bed and only got half-way through it before I fell asleep. As I put it down I thought, "hmmmm. Not as good as I had hoped, but I guess I'll finish it in the morning." Well, this morning I picked it up first thing and liked it much better after a good night's sleep!
The drawings are very detailed and give a good sense of what the author's life was like. He cleverly used black and white ink with color only used for emphasis: the red hammer and sickle; the red communist tanks and flags; his own drawings appear in blue and yellow so that the reader can always spot him and his artwork.
For students (and others) this book is a great introduction to the Cold War and what life was like under the Soviet control in Eastern Europe. The text is spare, but wastes no time showing the harsh realities of life under a totalitarian state. I thought the most interesting parts were when Sis showed the influence of western culture creeping in (Beatles, Beach Boys, blue jeans, etc) and how the government allowed a bit of it in only to realize that the citizens gobbled it up and asked for more, which led to even stricter crackdowns.
A text Introduction and Afterward are a nice start and closure, linking the author's life to the history that he has portrayed in his artwork.