Saturday, August 2, 2014

Teen review: Graphic nonfiction

Reviewed by Spencer Kierstein, grade 9

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History,
by Art Spiegelman

Maus is Vladek Spiegelman’s first story in a two-part series of his Holocaust experience. It is told in a comic book format as realistic nonfiction, totaling 159 pages.

The plot is similar to many other survivor’s stories, but the characters are drawn as animals instead of as humans. The main two are mice portrayed as Jews and cats portrayed as Nazis. There others as well: The Polish are pigs, Americans are dogs and the French are frogs. Along with that plot, which is set during the 1930s in Europe, there is an alternate plot with equal importance, set in the late 1970s or early '80s, the book doesn’t specify. The alternate plot is really Vladek telling his son Art (who is the author) the story, while the first plot is a flashback into 1930s Europe.

The more recent plot shows Vladek’s current status as a senior citizen affected by the Holocaust and how his family assists him in his old age. His son is always irritable when visiting Vladek because of old habits brought up by the Holocaust (saving random junk, obsessive organization, and ignorant consideration of others) and his second wife is frustrated from living with him. The second plot goes through his love life, his financial struggles, military service, and finally his experience with the Nazis. During their invasion he becomes a P.O.W. (prisoner of war) and then is shipped to the ghetto, where he struggles to make ends meet. During this time, readers definitely get to see why Vladek became one of the few survivors of the Nazi invasion. His resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, and courage were very inspiring, and provided his escape.

I recommend this book to a high school student interested in a deeper and unique perspective about the Jewish discrimination during the Nazi invasion. The only thing I’d like to have seen is a little more violent action scenes, but that might just be my teenage male kicking in. On a scale from 1-5, this book deserves a 4 because of its can’t-put-down plot, realer-than-life characters, and a setting that makes its mark in history books everywhere.

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