Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyA powerful, moving chronicle of a Jewish boy coming of age in 1950s Communist Prague, Giardino's (Hungarian Rhapsody) latest graphic novel is a work of brilliant clarity and unsettling insight. Multi-page vignettes illustrate the inexorable narrowing of young Jonas Finkel's life, a process that begins in earnest with the arrest of his father in the middle of the night. Out of favor due to their bourgeois, "reactionary capitalist" past, Jonas and his mother are left in a world of evaporating friends, vanishing supports and denied opportunities. But mother and son share a stubborn streak, evidenced most strongly by the former's determined letter-writing campaign on behalf of her imprisoned husband. Such persistence, however, only brings more trouble under a regime that seeks to level all social, cultural and economic differences. Giardino's beautifully precise artwork presents the day-to-day dreariness of Jonah's contracting world and yet evolving adolescence in striking detail, making real the erosion that reshapes lives under the ponderous weight of totalitarian authority. Even the colors, rich and bright at the start of the story, begin to fade into sleeted blues, grays and browns by the end. With virtuousic intensity, Giardino tracks the kind of degenerative tension that increases with insidious slowness, a half-twist a day. (July) FYI: Subsequent volumes will continue to chronicle Jonah Finkel's life.
Library JournalThis first volume in a projected series recounts the childhood of Jonas Finkel, whose father is mysteriously taken by police in 1950 Communist Prague. Young Finkel is victimized by anti-Semitism, removed from school, forced to work as an errand boy, and isolated from his peers. The story ends hopefully as Jonas and his mother learn that his father is alive and being held in a prison camp. Told with clear, understated illustrations, and colored primarily with greens and blues, this graphic novel offers a touch of Kafka while being gentle on the eyes. A good purchase for libraries just exploring the graphic novel field.Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., Mass.
School Library JournalYASuspenseful and full of danger, this story tells of a Jewish family in post-world War II Prague. After Jonas Finkel's father is arrested and taken from his home in the middle of the night, the family hears no news of him for many months and their fortunes rapidly decline. "Bourgeois tendencies" are rumored to be the reason for the arrest but anti-Semitism seems more likely. Jonas is not allowed to attend school and his mother eventually loses the right to tutor students in French. They eventually get word of Dr. Finkel from another prisoner. The graphical images aid the text in relaying the intense paranoia and fear during this time and place. Who can you trust? No one.Betsy Levine, San Francisco Public Library
Kirkus ReviewsThe first volume in a longer graphic novel, Giardino's tale of Communist oppression in Prague after the war recalls the best fictional and nonfictional accounts of life under Stalinism in Eastern Europethe Kafkaesque bureaucracies, the betrayal of friendships, the constant presence of Big Brother, the unofficial anti-Semitism. Giardino captures all this in a style American readers will recognize from the pages of Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal), in which such draftsmanship usually serves soft-core porn and tales of the fantastic. Giardino's realism features some lovely evocations of Prague, but the story never develops a style uniquely suited to its subject (which was the marvel of Spiegelman's Maus). Some of his silent panels best capture the terror of one family as it struggles to survive while the father is lost in the labyrinthine penal system. Still, this is a project worth watching if yet another fine comic artist proves that a medium long associated with kids can handle the most serious of topics.
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