Most helpful positive review
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Not only for children...
on September 12, 2007
Not only for the children:
Everybody is familiar with the saying "we take certain things, like freedom for granted". Peter Sis' book is about living in a country where this self-evident asset did not exist. Bear in mind, the author does not write about some high ideas whose proclamations would endanger the state. He is talking about criticizing government actions within a scope of a neighborly gossip - one cannot complain about the shortages of particular goods, telephones are bugged, certain books and films are banned, press, art and whole culture are censored, foreign radios are jammed, letters are opened and censored, informers are rewarded for snooping etc. "Yes", some readers might say "we already read about it so many times, and the cold war ended seventeen years ago". Of course, books were written about it and some adults even read it, but what is new about this book is its target. It is aimed for the children. The author, a world famous children books illustrator was born in former Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime and he presents the way of life during that terrible period as seen with the children eyes. The book is illustrated with the child -like, but artistic drawings. One might classify it as Comics for the gifted children. Since the facts are refined by the child lenses, I would recommend to read it together with the parents and I am certain that both sides will benefit. Specifically two chapters titled "From my Journals", where the necessary historical ,political events are recorded, could be fully understood only by the High school and higher up students. Since I lived under that system during my adolescence years I could testify for the accuracy of the facts with the understandable omission of the gruesome show trials, where the innocent people were sent to gallows or to heavy imprisonment in the concentration camps. We are aware that it is for the children and we hope that they will learn from it more than our generation did from the books for the adults.
I could voice only one critical comment. The author did not explain how this system came to power as experienced by a common man. Especially the children are prone to follow the logic of the "good guys" against the "bad ones". In general it followed the same path as any would-be totalitarian system. The Communist Party did not proclaim its final goal: total power. In the transient democratic period it promised to the masses essentially a heaven on the earth, for any problem, however complicated offered simple solution, in other words they pretended to be "good guys" and they succeeded... Once in power the Communists simply did not allow any free elections. Of course they were helped by the threat of the Soviet invasion, which had to come anyway many years later. This way presented lesson could help better to-days children to orient in the politics around us.
I strongly recommend this book as an educational and entertaining medium for the whole family.