14 Dec / Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole
“My mom said that while the wall was being made, our dad got stuck on the other side.” The story is specific to Germany where the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, dividing a single city into two, cleaving family members from one another – but it could certainly be taking place in too many other places around the world. The physical barriers between Israel and Palestine, and North and South Korea, are two obvious contemporary examples.
Here, a son dreams that his father will somehow break through the Wall from the west, and rescue his left-behind family. “But I knew that my dreams were unlikely to come true.” Intrepid and tenacious, the son plans, researches, watches for means of escape; he eventually creates an entrance into another world for his mother, sister, and himself. Their courageous attempt to flee is challenged when a soldier shouts “‘HALT!'” And then … well … read the book.
Tom Clohosy Cole “was inspired to write this book based on several true-life stories of people trying to cross the Berlin Wall to get to their loved ones,” his back flap bio states. As remarkable and elegant as his narrative is, his illustrations provide an even more resonating level of unforgettable insight. Cole’s expert use of light and darkness – he is indubitably equal parts gifted artist and writer – is especially effective, adding depth that words alone just can’t convey.
A black-white-grey landscape, for example, captures barbed wire in the distance, haunted by faraway anonymous outlines of two people, one holding the lifeless body of another, as an ominous oversized profile in the foreground bears witness – “While some were lucky, others were not,” the text mourns. So much the opposite is the final page – bright with beaming faces standing in front of a flung-open door, the light from behind illuminating an absolutely delightful revelation. Every shadow, every glow is a magnifying enhancement to Cole’s minimal, effecting prose.
The city of Berlin has been reunited for a quarter-of-a-century; the Berlin Wall crumbled on November 9, 1989. [While the rest of the country became one that day, the actual Day of German Unity is celebrated as October 3, 1990 because November 9-10, 1938 is the date of the horrific Kristallnacht anti-Jewish pograms.] No doubt that every dismantled wall fuels hope that other places in the world plagued by impenetrable boundaries will someday, somehow be pieced back together in peace and harmony. Hey, ’tis the season of hope and joy: dreams can come true, right?!