The Search


Esther remembers her own experience of the Holocaust as a Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, and recounts to her grandson Daniel and his friend Jeroen how she escaped from the Nazis and survived by going into hiding in the countryside. Her parents were not so lucky. Esther knows they were sent to a concentration camp and died there, and with Daniel’s help she embarks on a search to discover what happened to them during the last months of their lives. After tracking down an old friend who now lives in Israel, Esther...

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Esther remembers her own experience of the Holocaust as a Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, and recounts to her grandson Daniel and his friend Jeroen how she escaped from the Nazis and survived by going into hiding in the countryside. Her parents were not so lucky. Esther knows they were sent to a concentration camp and died there, and with Daniel’s help she embarks on a search to discover what happened to them during the last months of their lives. After tracking down an old friend who now lives in Israel, Esther finally learns the shocking story of how her parents met their fates at Auschwitz.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Lucy Freeman
The Search seems to be aimed at an oddly specific audience of elementary school children with a morbid curiosity about the Holocaust. The bright, simple colors won't appeal to anyone over the age of ten, and the vocabulary is appropriate for a fourth or fifth grader. A child, however, will not react well to the graphic scenes of brutal violence and the descriptions of Nazi malevolence. Although it certainly covers a crucial topic, it fail to appeal in all aspects to any one age group. Reviewer: Lucy Freeman, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Geri Diorio
These two books each concern a grandmother who lived in The Netherlands during World War II telling their families about their experiences. The Search is the story of Esther, a Jewish woman who reconnects with a childhood friend, Helena, in the United States. Esther's and Helena's grandsons ask them about their lives and the story of how Esther's family was torn apart by the Holocaust emerges. In A Family Secret, Helen's grandson Jeroen, raids his grandmother's attic to find items to sell at a yard sale. He finds her old scrapbook, covering the years of the Nazi occupation. Helena tells Jeroen about her life at that time, including Esther's disappearance, how her father worked for the German occupying forces and how her brother joined the Resistance. The picture-book shaped tomes have art that is detailed yet clear, with bold colors and no shading, but because the characters have only a few stock facial expressions, the total effect comes across a bit "cartoony." The historical information is given didactically. Instead of using the art to drive the story, a character's head will float above the panel, narrating. The reader is being told the action instead of simply being shown it. The books' accuracy is impeccable, but their appeal is unclear. The information on the Holocaust is accurate and scary, but the art and color seem young for such heavy material. Perhaps classroom teachers can use them to entice reluctant readers into learning about the Holocaust. Reviewer: Geri Diorio
Kirkus Reviews
Evocatively written and deftly illustrated, this graphic novel about the Holocaust might be one of the best since Maus. Esther, an adult Jewish woman who grew up in Germany, embarks on a pilgrimage to the farm where she was hidden during her girlhood in World War II. Sharing her story with her young grandson on the way, she takes him and readers through the egregious injustices and unthinkable acts of violence perpetrated by the Nazis and their sympathizers. Esther recounts a brief stay with her best friend, Dutch (and nonJewish) Helena, who harbored her family after they were run out of their home. Helena's accounts of the war are collected in the comparably excellent and equally stellar companion volume, also published in cooperation with the Anne Frank House, A Family Secret (9780374322717). Clear and concise explanations depict the struggles and the horrors of the time. Heuvel holds little back from his audience, presenting his facts starkly through Tintinlike illustrations that depict the atrocities without artifice. Gripping and visceral, these two volumes together are musthaves. (Graphic historical fiction. 10 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—These intertwined graphic novels tell the stories of two girls coming of age in Europe during World War II. A Family Secret follows the story of Helena, who survived the war primarily due to her father's decision to collaborate with the Nazis. She recounts her life and those of others, including citizens stranded in the Dutch East Indies at the time. The Search begins in our current era, with Esther arriving in the Netherlands from the U.S. for her grandson's Bar Mitzvah. While there, she catches up with Helena, whom she befriended at age 12 after fleeing Hitler's Germany for the Netherlands. Through flashbacks, Esther and Helena tell their grandsons about the danger-filled era of their youth. Before she returns to the U.S., Esther learns the final fate of her family and receives a priceless memento that Helena has kept for her. The Search, in particular, would pair well with Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. Heuvel crafts his artwork in the European ligne claire style, making the books highly reminiscent of Hergé's work in "Tintin." North American audiences may find the cartoon style somewhat at odds with the often tragic nature of the narratives, but those who try it out will find the books interesting and educational.—Douglas P. Davey, Halton Hills Public Library, Ontario, Canada
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374464554
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 986,033
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.29 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

ERIC HEUVEL is a highly regarded Dutch graphic novel artist. He lives in Zaandam. RUUD VAN DER ROL worked at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam for many years, and LIES SCHIPPERS is an editor and author there. They have both written and edited books and educational materials dealing with Anne Frank and her family, her work and her lifetime, as well as the Holocaust, human rights, prejudice, and discrimination. Mr. van der Rol lives in Castricum, and Ms. Schippers lives in Haarlem.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What were some of the first signs of discrimination

against the Jews? When Hitler rose to power, he

changed certain laws; therefore, he acted “legally.”

How important is it for average citizens to be fully

informed of changing laws? To have the ability to

go to court or publish their opinions?

2. Helena’s father, the policeman, gives Esther the

choice to go with her parents or somewhere else

(p.19). Bob chose to stay with his parents (p. 34),

while Esther chose to flee. What would you have

chosen? Why?

3. Where did Esther go after the war? She was still a

teenager—who helped her make that decision?

Where would you have gone?

4. Do you agree with Daniel and Jeroen that the allies

should have bombed the concentration camps

(p. 52)? What would have been the consequence of

such an action?

5. In Amsterdam, as well as in many other cities after

the war, newspapers constantly ran ads for people

trying to find surviving family and friends. Can you

imagine such a scenario today? It is of course something

very different, but after Hurricane Katrina displaced

many people and destroyed much of New

Orleans, how did family members find each other?

6. Today Auschwitz-Birkenau remains an emblem of

evil, a site of historical remembrance, a vast cemetery.

Hundreds of thousands visit the camps each

year to learn, to grieve, or to reflect on the past. Is

this appropriate? State reasons why you would visit

Aushwitz-Birkenau today or why you think you

would not visit the former concentration camp.

7. How far back do you know your family’s history,

its stories? When did the first members of your family

come to this country? Why did they come? What

was their journey like? How were they met once they

arrived? Are there photographs? Have you visited

the places where your ancestors lived?

8. Every day thousands of family photographs are

taken without regard to future generations’ views of

them. Yet family photographs can be considered

cultural artifacts because they document the events

that shape families’ lives. How does Esther’s album

do just that? Can scholars benefit from researching

family photo albums?

9. Nowadays, many families simply keep and display

photographs on their computers. Does the rapidly

changing technology endanger the potential

for photographic documentation, or does it improve

it? It’s now possible to alter photographs almost

undetectably. Does this pose a threat to future


10. Compare and contrast Helena’s experience during

the war with Esther’s. Are they similar even

though one girl was not Jewish, while the other was?

Pretend you are a reporter for television and you

have the chance to interview each of the characters

involved in this story (Helena, her brothers, Esther,

the farmer, the policemen, et al.). Write the script

for your questions and their answers.

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