The Wall and the Wind is a story of resilience. It follows an imaginative girl whose dreams are blocked by the Berlin Wall. She lives east of the wall but wants to travel west so that she might have greater freedom to follow her passions. Decades pass, the wall falls, and the girl moves to a new land called, appropriately, Newfoundland. The nameless girl’s journey is based on the life of author-illustrator and designer Veselina Tomova, an asylum-seeker from Bulgaria who has lived in Newfoundland for more than 30 years.
This book could have been structured with a tired transformation that shows a sad before and a happy after, but life is rarely that black and white. Instead, The Wall and the Wind progresses in three parts, distinguished by their illustrations. The opening spreads are charming and bright: even though the girl’s world is physically restricted, she enjoys much love and a limitless imagination. The ominous wall, and the suffering it has caused, is contained within six grey and forbidding pages. The rest of the book offers a return to bright colours and a vibrant future. Just as the illustrations alternate between celebratory and sombre, so does the typography. Rigid lines of text centred on the page resemble a chipped-away wall. These are supplanted by bendy and curvy lines that look to be floating through the air.
The multimedia illustrations are rich and layered in both concept and construction. Their handcrafted appearance – with visible brush strokes, scratchings that cut through paint to show the canvas, and glued-on feathers, fabrics, and cut-outs of embroidered flowers – visually conveys something of the depth and texture of lived experience.
On the whole, The Wall and the Wind is more breezy than heavy. That said, some of the language is challenging for young audiences, and the depictions of the Berlin Wall are intimidating. The book prompts some difficult but potentially productive conversations, tempered with a reassuringly happy ending.