April 06, 2011

Maus by Art Spiegelman

I started taking an interest in the history of the graphic novel since reading Essex County as part of Canada Reads.  During my research I read that Maus was considered a classic of the genre.  Imagine my surprise when I saw it at my library’s “Hot Books” section the very next day.  That was a sign. I had to pick up despite already having too many books on the go.  After scanning a few pages it immediately took precedence on my pile of books. 
The author recounts his father’s experiences as a holocaust survivor during WWII.  They say memory is particularly acute when strong emotions are tied to events. Humans remember joyful occasions like reciting weddings vows more vividly than routine conversations like ordering a coffee at a café.  The same is true for sad or painful events.  Reading the words and viewing the images in Maus stirred up powerful emotions in me.  His father’s story is now permanently etched in my brain.  Regardless of the number of books I’ve read or films I’ve seen, when someone mentions holocaust, Maus will come to my frontal lobe.  It’s an honest, respectful, informative book on the holocaust.  An enormous accomplishment when you consider the genre.
Overall Rating (*****)


Denise Nielsen said...

The first time someone in my book club suggested a "Graphic novel" I was guilty of major eye rolling. I read LITERATURE, not comics!!!. (I might have said that, can't remember). But hey, it's a book club so I picked up Persepolis with a jaded eye...and realised just how wrong I had been. Awesome book. Maus is another great one.

Then my son - a non reader at 7 - started reading Bone, and I found The Hobbit in graphic novel format too. He now reads at an advanced level - all thanks to graphic novels.

No longer do I roll my eyes.

Hélène said...

Thanks for your comment Denise. I attended a conference on historical graphic novels recently. Scott Chantler launched his latest called "Two Generals". It's about his grandpa as a Canadian soldier during WWII. The second was "The Klondike" by Zach Wonton. I haven't read them yet so I'm not sure if they are suitable for young readers.
There was a school librarian in the audience. She begged the authors for more historical graphic novels. Students love them and she's thrilled to see them read and learn history. Hopefully we will see more examples soon. I was shocked to learn that they take years to complete. It could be a while but at least publishers are keen on investing in projects of this genre.