Review: Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole

wall

Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole

When the Berlin Wall was built, a boy was separated from his father who was on the other side.  His mother told him that his father was in a place where life was better.  They were not allowed to leave their side of Berlin.  The boy dreamed of his father coming and rescuing them, but he knew that was unlikely to happen.  So he started to plan ways to get past the wall himself.  Other people tried to get past the wall, many of them died in their attempts.  But it was worth the risk to see his father once again, so the boy started digging out in the woods near the wall.  When the tunnel was ready, the boy led his family to it, but along the way they were stopped by a soldier.  Would this be the end of their brave journey to reunite their family?

Cole captures the separation and division caused by the Berlin Wall.  He also clearly shows the fierce drive of a family to reunite and be together once again.  Told in very simple sentences, the book relies on its fine artwork to carry the story.  It is the art that conveys the danger, the deaths and the risks that people took to see loved ones again or to attain freedom. 

The art here is exceptional.  Cole uses lighting on his pages to show the hope of the West versus the darkness and gray of the other side of the wall.  The illustrations are atmospheric and dramatic.  They convey the feeling of isolation and the fear. 

A strong picture book about the Berlin Wall and the power of family and hope.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

why we took the car

 

Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

Originally published in Germany, this is a gorgeous coming-of-age story that is dark and immensely funny.  It is the story of Mike who just doesn’t fit in.  He’s considered one of the most boring people in his school, ignored entirely by girls and laughed at when he reads his writing out loud.  He’s not even invited to the best party of the year though everyone else is.  Everyone but Andre, better known as Tschick, who comes to school drunk, looks like he’s been fighting, and wears outdated clothes.  Tschick and Mike have absolutely nothing in common, but when Tschick shows up unexpectedly in a stolen car when Mike has been left home alone for an extended time, they head on a road trip that no one will ever forget.

Winner of several awards in Germany, this book is much more than a standard teen road trip book.  What could have been cardboard stereotype characters instead blossom in the hands of Herrndorf to become much more complex and intriguing.  They get more and more interesting as the book progresses, steadily revealing themselves to one another and to the reader.  It turns out that Mike is far from boring in any way and Tschick is far from any sort of stereotype.

Readers know from the beginning how the road trip ends, but the joy is in getting to that point.  I guarantee it is not a straight line!  The setting of modern Germany is one that many teens may not have explored, especially through the eyes of native Germans.  The translation is done very well, leaving it particularly European, but also making it flow for English speakers.

I am usually not a fan of road trip stories, but this is definitely one trip worth taking.  Funny with a lightness but also depth, this is a wonderful teen read.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Arthur A. Levine Books and NetGalley.