Scholastic’s popular I Survived series features events in world history survived by fictional young protagonists who prevailed against the most frightening of odds. Some of the books in the series have been recently rewritten in graphic novel format, among them I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944. In colored panels accompanied by both text blocks and speech bubbles, the author tells the story of young Max and his sister, Zena, who escape from a Polish ghetto and are found hiding in the forest by an anti-Nazi Resistance group that includes their aunt, who has been fighting the Nazis for some time. The story focuses primarily on the courageous feats of the Partisan Resistance fighters who trained in the forests and emerged to subvert the Nazi regime by pointed attacks on small targets with the aim of cumulatively damaging the German war machine. Max and Zena remember the Biblical story they have been taught about David and Goliath and decide that they are not too young to help the Resistance fighters in their vitally important efforts.
This graphic novel presents the Holocaust in a simple manner and is a good introduction for readers who find graphic novels more accessible than traditionally printed books. It can help ease young readers into this difficult topic as they identify with brave, resilient children their own ages. The story is told through richly colored art that includes historical detail and is almost photographic in style. A sense of movement and realistic facial expression help draw the reader into the action.
Children who have not yet encountered heavier, substantive Holocaust materials may be served well by this introductory version. The books end on a hopeful note with the end of the war, the start of rebuilding destroyed cities, the formation of the State of Israel, and with the children on their way to the United States, where they hope to have a bright future.
Back matter includes a helpful author’s note, a recap of the history covered in the story, more information on the Jewish Partisan fighters, a timeline, and suggestions for further reading about the Holocaust geared to the age group.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.