The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel adapted by Salva Rubio

4.5 stars Graphic Novel Middle School/YA

Edita loved her books, an adoration that would lead her on quite a journey in her life.  As a young child, Edita enjoyed reading and was a sponge, immersing herself into books, as she wanted to know everything. With her parent’s encouragement, Edita was on her way.  Edita’s greatest fear was time.  Edita feared was that she wouldn’t finish all the books that she wanted to read, in her lifetime.  I can totally relate to how Edita felt.  The adults in her life had other fears they were dealing with which were now starting to hit closer to home.  The troops were beginning to march in.  Whispered conversations were now the norm, schools started shutting down and stars were being stitched on clothing.  Edith was lucky as she used her stories to help her get through the days.  When the family is finally forced out of their home, Dita can’t decide which books she wants to take with her.  With her ONE suitcase limit, this is a difficult decision.  NONE!?! 

Now, that was crazy talk!  Dita leaves with her family, carry no books inside her suitcase.  The family is shuffled and pushed around like cattle, following all the other individuals who are forced out also.  They’re lost, scared, and nervous.  What is happening?  The illustrations do a terrific job showing the feelings and bleakness of this time period as the individuals try to grasp exactly what is happening in their lives. Now is not the time to be modest or arrogant, Edith’s family knows they need to do what is expected of them to survive. When they finally stop drifting around, the camp they find themselves in, is trying to organize itself.  They’re utilizing the talents of each of the prisoners, to benefit themselves.  Dita’s special talent of reading is one that I didn’t think she realizes how special it was.  With her ability to read different languages, Dita is able to assist many other prisoners and she becomes the secret librarian.  Dita takes this job seriously but there were other important roles that she had.  Fourteen-year-old Dita, taking risks that some adults were afraid of taking, and putting herself out there for the benefit of others: that’s one strong teen forced to live in a concentration camp.

This is based on the true story of Dita Kraus, an Auschwitz prisoner in WWII.  A graphic novel adaptation is from Antonio Iturbe, The Librarian of Auschwitz.   I found that this graphic novel touched on the important topics of Dita’s life and that the story moved quite quickly.  Given that this book covers only 120 pages and Iturbe novel covers over 400 pages, Rubio did a great job showing the highlights of Dita’s life and how important she was. Having read both books (I loved Antonio’s novel!), and knowing that this is a graphic novel adaption, a lot of the details of the original book had to be left out.  The author did include in his Epilogue some great information that I feel is important to this book and should be read.  4.5 stars

The Dam by David Arnold

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

The illustrations are just specular!  Knowing that this story is based on a true event makes this story much more heartfelt and emotional.   As the father and daughter walk into the valley together, there is this calmness in the story as he talks about how the dam will change life in the valley. No longer will there be joyous parties and dancing, the wildlife and animals will cease to come here, for this land will be forever changed.  They come to a tall, brick structure and go inside. The daughter is instructed to play her violin one last time inside this structure while her daddy sings along.  I can’t describe how wonderful the illustrations are as these two fill the room with their music.

The duo continues playing their music in all the buildings in this deserted community, filling “the houses with music,” until

“The birds heard.

The beast heard.

The earth heard.

The trees heard.

The ghosts heard.

The day was darkening.

Out of the valley they walked.” 

Water slowly covers the land, until, “This was covered over.  This was drowned.  The lake is beautiful.”  The father and daughter return to the land, the land they had last visited and played their duet.  It is new, yet it’s the same. 

The music is still there and it will continue and so will the memories.  Life changes but it’s still the same.  Fantastic story!!   Check out this beautiful picture book! Definitely a 5-star read for me!

Yonder by Ali Standish

5 stars Historical Fiction Middle School

Jack was a hero.  Jack jumped into the racing floodwaters and rescued the two girls from downing while the rest of the congregation stared as the raging waters carried the girls away.  If you ask Jack though, he’ll tell you a different story as Jack doesn’t want the attention and the glory. Jack just wants to be Jack.  Jack is street smart which is working out for him but the truancy officer thinks Jack needs to be book smart too so he hunts Jack down and tries to make him attend school.  Jack doesn’t learn much from the books in school but he does learn about the individuals inside the building. 

Danny is the book’s narrator and he attends school with Jack.   Like Jack, Danny also delivers the newspapers around town while Danny’s mother keeps the newspaper running.  Danny’s mother has an important job and I liked that she was honest with her son as this helps Danny.  It’s June of 1943, the war is raging and segregation is occurring.  Danny’s father has enlisted while Jack’s father has returned home from the war, bringing home with him parts of the war which overshadow his life.  Two teen boys: they’re the same, yet they’re different. 

I liked the relationship of Danny and Jack.  They could be themselves and they enjoyed being around each other.  They liked to have fun together and they were able to talk freely without worrying about what they were saying.  When Lou showed up, they tried to include her.  Danny had led a sheltered life but when his eyes were opened, we got to see his world through his eyes now. 

There seems to be some mysteries popping up in the book when Jack disappears and Danny takes it upon himself to find him.  Lou has a different mystery that she wants to solve.  I feel that Jack’s disappearance is based on Jack’s solving his own mystery and perhaps, Jack will never find him.  Will anyone solve their mystery?  I liked how Danny started to take an interest in the war besides just collecting his scrap metal for school.  Jack feels comfortable around Danny and talks to him about some personal issues.  I loved hearing the excitement in Jack’s voice as he talked about and wondered about Jack’s disappearance.  

This is such a fantastic book.  A book about war, bullying, friendship, family, and love.   

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 (I Survived Graphic Novels) by Lauren Tarshis

5 stars Middle School Graphic Novel

I was excited to see this series in graphic novel form. The story does move along quickly and being told through the eyes of Chet, a young boy who lives with his Uncle Jerry, I think young teens will be able to relate to Chet and his adventure.  I thought the illustrations reflected the book’s time period without being overly done and they reminded me of some old comic books that I have seen.  This story was easy to follow, contained a handful of characters, and the words on each page were kept at a minimum.  I enjoyed this story and thought the illustrations went along with the story nicely.  I’m glad that this series is being created into graphic novel format and I’m looking forward to reading more of them in the future. 

All He Knew by Helen Frost

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I started to get all frustrated and concerned as I began reading this book.  I felt so helpless as I read about Henry.  He had begun his life alone and misunderstood.  The label they slapped on him, became a wall.  I felt some relief that Molly had never forgotten her brother, although he wasn’t living with her.  She loved him whether he was physically present or not.  The author’s creative way of expressing this factual event makes this a very powerful story. 

Henry was four when he becomes deaf after falling ill. They had hoped that Henry could get his education at the State School for the Deaf.  Needing to pass a test, Henry arrives for the test but he is unable to understand the tests’ directions.  Failing the test, he can’t attend the state school and they label Henry, “unteachable.”  With WWII on the horizon, they soon decide to place him in Riverview, a school for mentally disabled individuals.  Talk about sad! Little time and effort are spent on the patients and Henry sinks further down.  If I could just reach into this book and grab him out, I and I think plenty other readers would have.

As I read Henry’s thoughts, his hopes and his sadness, it’s beyond sad.  I’m wondering how the other patients feel about life in Riverview.  Molly is the only bright spot until I hear Victor’s footsteps mark the halls of Riverview.  Is Victor a real person or is he an angel? Where did he come from?  It’s sad to think that, finally one professional, seems to care.   

With short chapters, this true event story is a story that will definitely make your think.  Told through verse, it’s a fast read about this time period in history.  

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

5 stars Historical

The year is 1939, WWII is on everyone’s mind as the war is moving closer to home.  Impressed with the American’s Dewey Decimal System, Odile decides that an American library is where she wants to works and lands a position at the American Library in Paris. Odile loves her new position: being surrounded by individuals who care and enjoy reading.  This truly becomes her second home and her refuge.  

We move to the year 1983.  Lily has heard that this woman in her neighborhood was a war bride yet to Lily, she didn’t match what Lily envisioned.  For school, Lily interviews this neighbor and discovers what a treasure Odile really is.  While Lily feels like her own life is crumbling apart, she finds a true friend in Odile and someone that she can confine in. Although they are generations apart, Odile finds that being with Lily, she’s able to share the story of her life and her talents, which brings her tremendous joy.  

I enjoyed how the author alternated the stories throughout the book. As I read, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true account, that this story actually took place.  Although at times, I didn’t want one story to end, I was excited to get back into the lives of all the characters.  I had a hard time in the beginning chapters getting settled into the book but after those few chapters, I enjoyed it. I loved how everyone who was a part of the library tried so desperately to make sure their subscribers had access to the materials that they wanted. It wasn’t just making sure that the books were safe during the war but getting them out and into the hands of the individuals who really needed them, during this difficult time.  Doesn’t this sound like what we are going through now, to a point?  Is your own library meeting the needs of the people that it serves during this uncertain period in our history?  

By Plemasson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Odile’s relationships had me up at 3:30 in the morning as I couldn’t sleep thinking how things were going to work out.  Between her father, her brother, her girlfriends and her romance, it’s a wonder I slept at all the past couple nights.  I appreciate the author’s research in putting this book together as it was a fantastic read and one that I highly enjoyed.

Thank you Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.      

Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz

5 stars Middle School Book

Every book I read from Alan, I think he can’t write any better and then, he does it again.  In Project 1065, I time-traveled back to Berlin, where I met Michael and his parents who were spies.  Michael’s father is an Irish Ambassador so there is plenty of opportunity for the family to interact with high-raking officials.  Michael is 13, he attends an all-boy school and he does his part in the resistance.  Michael is also part of Hitler’s Youth Army where he can obtain information for the Allies.  One of the hardest parts of being a spy for Michael is, when he has to fake being a Nazi. 

When a British spy plane is shot down, Hitler’s Youth Army is called in to help search for him.  Michael wants to save the man yet his team is needed to turn him in.  The original search comes up empty but he’s found later and they’re able to safety hide him for the time being.  He’ll need to get out of the country soon and that’s when Michael’s family comes into play.

Michael meets a new boy at school, Fritz whose father is on the design team for a new aircraft w/o propellers.  This aircraft will help win the war.  At Fritz’s house, Michael steals the blueprint but later realizes, he only has a small section of the blueprints.  He’ll need to find the rest of the pages and get the information to the proper authorities BUT Fritz is quickly moving up the ranks in Hitler’s Youth and he’s leaving Michael behind.  This friendship is falling by the wayside yet Michael needs those blueprints soon but how can he get them? 

I’m sitting on the edge on my chair, the stories are running simultaneously, each one just as important as the others.  It’s war, there’s some violence but that’s expected, as that’s what these individuals experienced.  I enjoyed how all these stories were all tied in to one another, they’re full of energy and how enticing they were.  Alan’s book are phenomenal, I need to breathe now!  

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of WWII

5 Stars Nonfiction

These stories lives came with a punch, they struck viciously against my heart as I read them. To think that all of these individuals were children, innocent little people, who did nothing yet they received such a life-altering experience, that still haunts them today. I didn’t and I couldn’t read this book, all in one sitting. From the beginning, I wanted to appreciate each chapter: each individual’s situation and account. Upon reading, I realized that this is not a book that I could read straight through. The emotions and the energy in each of their stories lives, makes it a book that needs space.

From the voices of Russian children, we hear their side of what occurred to them during WWII. From a few pages to up to six pages, they tell us what they remembered. The children were affected in a variety of ways by the war: many had to leave their homes, some watched their fathers leave to fight in the war hence leaving them with lots of questions running through their minds, some children had to prepare for the war themselves and some even tried to stay in their own homes while the war ragged outside. They told their account and it was translated but the tone and the feelings are still in the words on the page. It’s as if these survivors were sitting with me, telling me how they reacted to a world that had turned upside down on them.

I could tell you about many of the individuals in this book as every story life in this book is worth mentioning. Their stories are different but every single one of them, are forever changed. How many times I read the word, “Mama!” I cannot count them all. How many times I read, “I was hungry,” I cannot count them all. How many times I read about death, how it had become part of these children’s regular, daily schedule, I cannot count them all.

There was Marlen, age 11, who is now a member of a town council. Marlen remembers always being hungry while living in the orphanage. He remembers needing to be first in line or you might not get anything to eat. With it being -20 degrees outside, Marlen takes off his hat and had a soldier ladle some soup into his hat instead of finding a metal tin. Marlen quickly runs back to the orphanage. He now has frostbite on his ears but he has supplied frozen soup to everyone there. Now, this adventure puts a smile on my face.

This is a book worth reading. I enjoyed this book and I appreciate the individuals who shared their stories lives with me.