A Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novelby Joseph Joffo, Vincent Bailly (Illustrator), Edward Gauvin (Translator)
In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in
In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone.
Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. And if they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish.
The boys travel by train, by ferry, and on foot, facing threats from strangers and receiving help from unexpected quarters. Along the way they must adapt to the unfamiliar world beyond their city—and find a way to be true to themselves even as they conceal their identities.
Based on an autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo and adapted with the author’s input, this true story offers a harrowing but inspiring glimpse of a childhood cut short.
One almost never hears the sentence, "I'm reading a Holocaust book for fun," but parts of this memoir of French Jews fleeing the Occupation read like an adventure story. No one would describe this book as a thriller, but it has false identities and escapes through the forest in the dark of night. Ten-year-old Joseph even looks a bit like Tintin, with his skinny frame and blond hair. For a brief portion of the war, he spends his days eating pastries and watching the same movie over and over again. (Bailly's pictures of the free zone in Marseille are gorgeous.) But the memoir is always a moment away from tragedy. In real life, Joseph Joffo's father died in a concentration camp, and the last image in the story highlights his framed, sepia-toned photo. A few scenes are deeply poignant. Early in the book, Joseph is told to deny his Jewish identity, and he asks, "What is…a Jew?" His father says, "Well, it's kind of embarrassing, but…I don't really know." At the time, Joffo probably didn't think he was living an adventure story. He had to flee from one zone of France to another, hoping he wouldn't be caught by the Nazis. For the 128 pages of this graphic novel, though, readers can pretend this is an awfully big adventure, and they'll keep flipping pages, hoping it doesn't turn into another story altogether. (Graphic memoir. 11-18)
This marvelously conceived and executed graphic memoir, adapted from Joffo’s 1973 book of the same name, tells the story of four Jewish brothers who spend WWII hiding from Nazi soldiers in Vichy France. When the Germans arrive, the boys’ father sends them off in pairs to separate destinations, instructing them never to reveal their Jewish identities to anyone. The two younger boys, Jo (the author) and Maurice, travel from city to city, always one step ahead of arrest. Sometimes they’re saved by decent French citizens (“Oh, the children are with me,” says a priest, casually). More often, desperation makes the boys quick-witted, as when they persuade an interrogator that what appears to be circumcision is the result of surgery for adhesions. The brothers’ courage, Joffo makes clear in the story’s early pages, has its source in their father’s valor. He dies in the camps, but his wife and sons survive. Bailly’s artwork carries much of the story’s emotional impact—every character is drawn with care, and every scene is crammed with atmospheric detail. Not to be missed. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Meet the Author
Joseph Joffo was born in Paris in 1931. He is the author of several books, but he is best known for his memoir A Bag of Marbles, published in 1973. It has been translated into eighteen languages, and in 1975 it was adapted to film. Like many of Joffo's books, A Bag of Marbles was based on his life story. After the war Joseph, his mother, and his brothers returned safely to Paris. His father died in a concentration camp.
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