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)