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Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer

Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer

5.0 2
by Trina Robbins, Anne Timmons (Illustrator), Mo Oh (Illustrator)

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In 1938, Lily Ren�e Wilheim is a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily's life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start


In 1938, Lily Ren�e Wilheim is a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily's life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily's journey. She must escape many more times—from servitude, hardship, and danger. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis? Follow the story of a brave girl who becomes an artist of heroes and a true pioneer in comic books.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Renowned comics historian Robbins pens this biography of Lily Reneé, an artist who was one of only a few women to work in the comic book industry in the 1940s. Raised in a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Reneé escaped to England from Nazi-occupied Austria when she was 14 years old. Most of the book recounts Reneé’s time in England as she’s turned into an unpaid servant by her host family, works as a nanny and nurse’s assistant, and endures the blitz. When she is finally able to join her parents in the United States, she uses her drawing skills to find work, eventually landing in comics and drawing pulp comics featuring bold, beautiful heroines. The story is told in a less than dramatic fashion, however. More space is given to Reneé attempting to mop a kitchen floor than finding shelter during the blitz and being witness to its aftermath, for example. Characters’ expressions and body language are kept simple. Extras include a German glossary, a brief history of the time in which Reneé’s story takes place, explanations of period details, and photographs of Reneé and her family, which provide needed real-world texture. Ages 9�12. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Graphic novels run the gamut from ephemeral to Maus and Persopolis, but their best use is to entice reluctant readers. Lily Renee exceeds that goal remarkably well. This biographical novel of a Viennese Jew, educated as an artist, who rides the last Kindertransport out of Austria, is a worthy historical entry into the genre. Lily Renee Wilheim was a pioneer comic book artist of female superheroes during World War II. Her trials in coming to America are the important backstory to her success. In England, her host family treated her as an unpaid servant. The girl is forced to scrub and starve until she runs away and finds work as a nurse's assistant. She is declared an "enemy alien" by the British and subjected to the possibility of internment. Miraculously, she finds that her parents have made it to America and makes it on the boat by sheer luck (a sailor falls overboard and delays the departure). In America, her family struggles, but she chances on the job as a comic-book artist (a male-dominated field), and creates one of the era's female Nazi-fighting heroes, Senorita Rio. Amended articles describe the time period, from a glossary of German terms to the genesis of the Horn and Hardart's Automat where Lily Renee was able to cadge food. The descriptions are done in an engaging, conversational manner. The artwork is excellent, and recalls the period comics that Lily, herself, might have created. Unlike some graphic novels, the dialogue boxes and balloons are clear enough to be easily read. Buy this one for kids who won't read biographies and adults who think that there is no such thing as a great graphic novel. Then refer good readers to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, by Michael Chabon, for the rest of the story. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
VOYA - Meghann Meeusen
When the Nazis march into Austria in 1938, Lily Renee's life changes forever. Although the Kindertransport allows Lily to escape the persecution she faces as a Jew living in Vienna, it means she must leave her parents and travel to England alone. As she embarks on this journey, she continues to face tremendous hardship and is repeatedly treated as an outsider. From being made a servant to taking a job as a nurse's assistant, Lily faces danger again and again until she is finally reunited with her parents in New York City. Inspired by everything she had to overcome, Lily grows up to illustrate comic books filled with powerful women, using her art to pursue her own kind of revenge against the Nazis. Effectively using a graphic novel format to tell a moving historical story, Lily Renee, Escape Artist puts a face to a brave teenager who survives tremendous tragedy to emerge a comic book pioneer. Although at times the simplistic narrative and colorful illustrations limit the poignancy of Lily's experience during a horrifying time in history, the positive message and historical detail make this graphic narrative a valuable resource that will appeal to young readers. Furthermore, the text also provides an extended appendix detailing some of the story's unique cultural and historic influences. A distinctive and useful visual portrayal of an inspirational true story, this graphic novel offers a great deal as an educational tool. Reviewer: Meghann Meeusen
Kirkus Reviews
This comic-book biography of a Jewish girl's life under the Nazi jackboot and then as a refugee is low key and that much more profound for it. The panels are brightly lit, and the narrative is crisp, both of which serve to chillingly amplify the everyday banality of evil. Robbins fashions Lily Renée Wilhelm as a young woman who simply must make the best of being shuttled from home to home as a Kindertransport refugee in England, thankful for the kindnesses while cognizant of the inequities, hopeful but not delusional. Her parents, still in Austria, haven't vanished, but they are thwarted at every turn. Bile rises, teeth clench--it is all so quotidian. Lily toils in this and that occupation, and then comes the wholly satisfying conclusion: Lily becomes a graphic artist of superwomen stories in the United States, so fitting that it closes her tale like the thunk of a Rolls Royce door. Robbins adds a glossary and a number of short, expository pages on concentration camps, internment camps, high tea, English currency, Queen Wilhelmina, the Holland-America Line and Horn and Hardart automats to flesh out Lily's life. A fitting tribute. (Graphic biography. 8-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 6�9—Like the comic books that Lily Renée Wilheim drew in the 1940s as a pioneer woman in a male-dominated industry, this biography is a tale of peril and suspense. Lily, an affluent Austrian Jewish girl, was one of the last children to be transported safely to England in 1939. After a few years with a sponsor family, she got a series of jobs caring for children and in a maternity hospital. After England entered the war, she lost contact with her parents and was later classified as an enemy alien. The tale of her reconciliation with her family in America and subsequent success as a graphic artist is classically upbeat. The book is drawn in a style that seems to imitate Wilheim's wartime comics—gestures and expressions are stylized and formal; characters stand or move stiffly. Think Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter. Add to this drawing style a tendency toward melodrama and few named characters except the subject and this book might be a tough sell. Improving its odds is back matter that includes a gallery of photographs of the charismatic Lily and brief essays on subjects as diverse as the British monetary system and the Automat.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Single Titles Series
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.40(d)
GN510L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Writer and feminist herstorian Trina Robbins has been writing books, comics, and graphic novels for over 30 years. Her most recent books are The Brinkley Girls (Fantagraphics) and Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (Hampton Press). Her newest graphic novel is the three-part YA series Chicagoland Detective Agency for Graphic Universe.

Anne Timmonswas born in Portland, Oregon, and received her BFA from Oregon State University. In addition to her collaboration with Trina Robbins on the Lulu Award-winning GoGirl!, Anne's work includes the Eisner-nominated Dignifying Science and Pigling: A Cinderella Story for Lerner's Graphic Myths and Legends series. She has illustrated and painted covers for children's books and provided interior and cover art for regional and national magazines, including Wired, Portland Review, and Comic Book Artist. Anne's art also appears in the anthology 9-11: Artists Respond and is now in the Library of Congress.

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Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The cobblestone streets of 1938 Vienna were calm and peaceful as people made their way through to shop or head to one of many cultural exhibits the city had to offer. Lily Renée Wilhelm lacked for nothing as her father, Rudolph, was the manager of the Holland America line, a premier transatlantic steamship company know for their "elegant vacation cruises". Lily was introduced to such things as the ballet, opera, and took dance and art lessons. At a local gallery, people clustered around to get a look at the work of such a young artist, but Lily's hopes and dreams would suddenly come to a jarring halt on on March 12, 1938 when "Hitler's Nazi army invaded Austria." Hitler's dream of Anschluss had quickly dashed Lily's dreams and brought fear into the Wilhelm household. Some Austrians were excited when the Nazi's marched through the streets, but Jews were not ... the Wilhelm's were Jewish. Lily Renée's family soon had many of their personal possessions confiscated. Displaced Jews were forcibly moved to Vienna and made to live with other familys, including the Wilhelm's. Merchants had to mark their store windows to identify themselves and many of Lily's friends chose to ignore and bully her. Jude. She was a Jude. Violence and change was on the horizon. The family grew more and more worried, especially when the Gestapo sent Uncle Samuel to Dachau. More and more restrictions came raining down on the heads of Jews in Vienna. In Berlin Herschel Grynzpan grew angry at the "brutal treatment of his family by the Nazi [and] had shot and killed a German diplomat." Soon the windows of merchants were shattered on Kristallnacht. It was time for Lily to leave and she would join the Kindertransport to escape the Nazis. Would she make it safely to England? Would she ever see her parents again or would they end up in a concentration camp like Uncle Samuel? This is an amazing portrayal of Lily Renée's escape from the Nazis and her youthful tenacity. Many graphic novels quickly draw me in, but this one more than others. One of the fascinating things was that Lily was a female pioneer of the comic book heroine. The ultimate revenge perhaps is to succeed, something that both Lily and Trina Robbins have both done as pioneers in their field. Trina was and illustrator of the 1960s Wonder Woman comic books. This novel may not appeal to the reader who enjoys a simple tale, a twisted sci fi, or mystery, but will definitely draw in the more serious reader and the collector. The artwork is crisp, bold, and meshes well with the serious nature of the tale. In the back of the book is a glossary, information on concentration camps, internment camps, British customs, English coinage, information about period British politicians Chaberlain and Churchill, a portrait of Queen Wilhemina, information on the Holland America line, the Horn & Hardart Automat, wartime comic book artists, and a photo album of Lily Renée and her family. This is a graphic novel that can easily be used as a stepping stone for a school report. This is an unusual biographical Holocaust novel that you should seriously considering adding to your homeschool, library or classroom shelves. This book courtesy of the publisher
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
a great historical book to contrast and compare with Maus and historical stories like anne Frank and the number of the stars... this i a positive story that shows the hard ship of those who survived the Nazi war crimes and the anti Semitic view of the world at that time... as inspiring as the tragic historical stories of that time