YA Review: MAUS by Art Spiegelman

I recently was subbing in a nearby middle school and the students were reading MAUS by Art Spiegelman. I had never seen this book (though it won a Pulitzer and is widely known). After my day teaching, I found the book, THE COMPLETE MAUS, in the library so that I could continue the story. Maus is an early graphic novel (originally published in 1991). It is told entirely in comic strip form. The first part is “A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and leads up to Spiegelman’s parents being sent to Auschwitz, while the second part, “And Here My Troubles Began”, focuses on his father’s experience in the concentration camp and after the war for his parents.

MAUS depicts the story of Spiegelman’s father’s survival of the Holocaust in Europe, as he relays it to his son. A Polish Jew, Vladek Spiegelman marries his wife Anja and they are wealthy and successful business owners. WWII is creeping across Europe, however, and antisemitism is on the rise. Vladek relays when they first see a Nazi flag, when their first friends lose their businesses, when people begin to disappear. Slowly you see their world deteriorating, yet through it all, Vladek’s resiliency and resourcefulness shine through. He protects his wife first and foremost, and tries to save her parents as well. They have their young son go to live with friends so that he will be safe (he ends up dying though). Their main goal becomes to survive and make it through to the other side of WWII. The stories become more and more disturbing as the war progresses, and are made all the more disturbing as you know this is a true story.

I know I’m a little late to the party here as this book has been around for a while, but I am so thankful that I came across it and read it. Spiegelman’s depictions of the Nazi’s as cats and the Jews as mice is very clever (the Americans are dogs), and this book can be a great teaching tool in the classroom, particularly with older students. The graphic novel form makes it both easy to read and yet disturbing. Peppered throughout is Spiegelman’s own relationship with his father, especially in the second volume. You can see him trying to come to grips with their relationship, his father’s seemingly eccentric ways, and his father’s failing health, along with his mother’s death several years earlier. This was a touching and brilliant depiction of a Holocaust survivor which stayed with me long afterwards.

Highly recommended for this genre/time period! I got mine at the library.

Review: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston

I loved, loved, loved this unique novel I picked up today at the library on the new releases shelf. Told in pictures and memorabilia from the 1920’s, Frances “Frankie” Pratt is a young woman newly graduated from high school in 1920 and planning the rest of her life. Her mother gives her a scrapbook for her high school graduation, and she finds her deceased father’s Corona typewriter in the barn (Frankie dreams of being a writer). What follows is an engaging look at a young girl becoming a woman in a time that now almost 100 years ago. Told entirely through Frankie’s scrapbook, we follow her from high school, to her first job, to her first fling, to college, to Europe, and beyond.

I really enjoyed this book! I read it in an afternoon.

Love the book trailer from You Tube!

Quick Children’s Review: The Boxcar Children Graphic Novel #2 – Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler and Mike Dubisch

Through Net Galley, I received a free download of this novel to review from the publishers at Open Road. The Boxcar Children series has been around for a long time. In case you don’t know the premise, four orphaned siblings live in a boxcar and have adventures and solve mysteries. They reunite with their grandfather, but the adventures continue. The original series was created by Gertrude Chandler in the 1940’s. In this rendition, Mike Dubisch has put the story into a graphic “comic book” format. It reads easily and has colorful pictures. It was also quite short – just over 30 pages. I could see how reluctant readers or those seeking a quick read would like this series. To be honest, I found some of the language stilted – since it condensed quite a bit of text into a shorter, graphic format – but I still think that both boys and girls would enjoy this series. I plan to share mine with my favorite second grader.

Thanks, Open Road, for sending me a copy to review!