Among graphic novels about the Holocaust, Maus by Art Spiegelman is probably the standard by which all others are measured. Magneto: Testament is, believe it or not, a fine (but very depressing) work on the Holocaust as well. But neither of these books is a great way to introduce younger readers to the Holocaust and the toll it inflicted on so many. Fortunately, publisher :01 Books has stepped forward not once, but now twice, to bring the horror of war to the level of younger readers. Many people may recall the three-volume series Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis which is great for kids about 10 and up.
Now, :01 Books has released Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo.
Hidden is deceptively simple in its presentation with people having bobble-doll sized heads and bobble-doll sized bodies, inked line-work and flat, often monotone coloring like the older comic strips. A second look allows you to see the amount of detail poured into each frame and the expressions and emotions being played out on each person's face.
The story centers around a little girl named Dounia, somewhere between six to nine years old, living in
France when the Nazi occupation and the Vichy government begin their persecution of the Jews. It begins with the wearing of a yellow Star of David and is followed by public segregation. Dounia is no longer allowed to talk to her friends or walk with them, she must sit in the back of the classroom, she and her family are confined to small parts of their town. Finally, the police come for the family. Desperate, her mother and father hide her away in the apartment but are arrested themselves. From there, Dounia relies on the kindness of strangers who stand up to the Nazis the only way they can- by helping each other. Dounia has her name changed and is taken in by a new couple who move her out to the countryside where she is safer. the efforts to keep Dounia safe and hidden are amazing, and a note at the end of the book says her story is based on histories collected from survivors and those involved in hiding the Jews. About 84% of the Jewish children in France were never arrested by the Germans or the Vichy government- a testimony to the fortitude of the French people to refuse to give in to evil.
The most shocking part of the story is when Dounia's mother is found alive. It will shake you.
The story of Dounia is told without rage, or gore, or a lot of violence. It is the war seen through the eyes of a child living everyday in uncertainty.
The book not only serves to be a great starting point on the Holocaust for younger readers, but can be appreciated by older readers as well as it offers a look at the war rarely seen. Hidden is out April 1. It contains 80 pages in full color and carries a suggested price of $16.99.