Published by Macmillan on April 1st 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Family, General, Historical, Holocaust, Multigenerational, Young Adult
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In this gentle, poetic young graphic novel, Dounia, a grandmother, tells her granddaughter the story even her son has never heard: how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was hidden away from the Nazis by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep her alive when her parents had been taken to concentration camps. Hidden ends on a tender note, with Dounia and her mother rediscovering each other as World War II ends . . . and a young girl in present-day France becoming closer to her grandmother, who can finally, after all those years, tell her story. With words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, this picture book-style comic for young readers is a touching read.
The synopsis uses the best word for this graphic novel, that’s gentle. Hidden is intended for younger readers, I’d say seven to twelve or so. It is sad and a little gloomy but I still think that this is probably an excellent read for this age demographic. It manages to convey both the hurt and the horror of the holocaust without being too graphic. This is a fine line to walk and Dauvillier and his artists walk it perfectly.
The story is couched in a frame, with the main story being told to a little girl by her grandmother. This helps to give it a feel of tenderness and also to make the story more personal. Dounia’s (the grandmother) story beings at the rise of the Vichy government in France. The alienation and persecution of Jews in public life is shown through the way that both children and teachers treat Dounia after government edicts are passed requiring Jews to wear the Star of David.
Dounia is hidden away in a false bottom of a bureau while her parents are arrested and taken away to concentration camps. The bravery of her neighbors in caring for her and continuing to keep her safe is touching and believable.
The art is so-so. Nothing to write home about, but appropriately done considering the intended age and the subject matter. It’s not distracting and the story flows well around it.
Hidden ends with a one page typed afterword, giving context and further explanation of what exactly was going on in the story. The afterword is also geared towards young readers, though not glaringly so. It informs me that 11,400 French children were murdered during the Holocaust. Children.
The members of the French Resistance movement are often underrepresented in my Holocaust reading. On my many visits to Paris (and throughout France) I have neglected looking for monuments to the French Resistance. That changes next time I go.
Great resource to open doors to talk to your children about the historical significance of the Holocaust and the importance of standing up against injustice in our own lives. I think this book has the potential to start some great conversations on why neither bullying nor pretending not to notice bullying are okay.
If you’re wondering about the three-star rating, it’s a combination of the art, the projected price-tag, and the scope. If you’re an adult without kids, unless you have an exceptional interest in the holocaust, skip this one, or at least get it from the library or read it in a single sitting in the bookstore, if you have kids in the middle grade age range – it’s absolutely worth it.