Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Search

The Search by authors Eric Heuvel, Ruud van der Rol and Lies Schippers is the sequel to A Family Secret which I reviewed here. This graphic novel was published first in Dutch by the Anne Frank House in cooperation with the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Reading the two books together is a real learning experience.

The Search begins with Esther, who has come to Amsterdam to see her grandson's Bar Mitzvah, greeting the grandson of her old friend Helena. Esther and Helena had been friends during the years of the Holocaust and had been reunited in the first book. While she is visiting Esther decides to revisit the places she hid during the Holocaust and to try to find out exactly what had happened to her Jewish parents. With Esther, we follow the path she took to survival and learn how her parents met their death.

According to one review of the book, the artist uses the European ligne claire style in the drawing of the comics. Artist Craig Terlson has an excellent description of this style on his web page. In addition to the wonderful cartoons, the author includes short snippets in many of the frames which provide factual information which supplement the story line. Maps of war torn Europe and labeled drawings of Auschwitz add to the detailed information presented. The book is not without controversial statements which even adults may have difficulty answering.

Esther tells her grandson about some prisoners who escaped from Aushwitz:

Escaped prisoners told the British and American governments about Auschwitz. But little was done by the Allies with that information. (p. 51)

In the next frame, prisoner Bob sees Allied bombers flying over the camp and asks, Why don't they bomb the gas chambers and the railway lines? (p. 52) Instead the Allies are to bomb the factories. Even today, we cannot understand the answers to these two questions. Why didn't the United States and her Allies do more to stop the killing? While we cannot make sense of what happened, we can remember. Books like this one help us to do just that.

For an interesting article and lesson plan for this graphic novel, read No Laughs, No Thrills, and Villans All Too Real by Michael Kimmelman (New York Times, 29 February 2008). for a more complete description of the award and a list of all winners. The lesson plan which focuses on the novel and the short article can be found here.

TITLE: The Search
AUTHOR: Eric Heuvel, Ruud van der Rol, Lies Schippers
Translated by: Lorraine T. Miller
TYPE: non-fiction, graphic novel
AWARD: Dutch Comics Association's category award
RECOMMEND: In its unique format, this will appeal to many who do not care to read a traditional novel. In addition, the story is told in a very personal and informative way that brings emotions and actions to light.

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