British illustrator Cole’s life-affirming debut for children marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A boy narrates this poignant account of a family divided by the towering wall. “My mom said that while the wall was being made, / our dad got stuck on the other side. // I worried he was lonely, / but Mom said life was better over there. // And we couldn’t leave, anyway.” The father’s in West Berlin—free, yet consigned to life without his wife and children. The Eastern, Soviet-dominated occupation is conveyed in bleak, blue-black scenes dominated by guard towers, barbed wire and claustrophobic interiors. The boy dreams “of Dad breaking through the wall and rescuing us.” Dad appears as a savior, his muddy coat radiantly backlit, shards of wall and an open book at his feet. Understanding the unlikelihood of a family reunion, the boy nonetheless imagines “all kinds of ways to get across.” Some escapees breach the wall—some fail. Yet, if they do nothing, they might never find Dad. “So I started digging.” Mother, son and daughter, escaping toward the tunnel, are stopped by an ultimately sympathetic guard. In a dramatic denouement, the family finds Dad, just in time—he’s digging his own tunnel east.
Striking, expressionist graphics and a plainspoken, minimalist text distinguish this standout. (Picture book. 5-9)