I Sur­vived the Nazi Inva­sion, 1944: The Graph­ic Novel

Lau­ren Tarshis, Álvaro Sar­rase­ca (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – July 19, 2021

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.

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