The most moving scenes of this graphic novel have no words at all.
Lizano draws people the same way that small children do: a giant oval for the head and two dots for the eyes. But his people always have complicated expressions on their faces. They never show just one emotion. They’re angry and perplexed or cheerful and bemused. (Colorist Salsedo supplies a sad, muted palette that complements the mood perfectly.) When the Nazis force the Jews to wear yellow stars, Dounia’s mother looks frightened and furious and bewildered. Her father looks surprisingly happy. He says, “This morning, I was at a big meeting. Some people suggested that we become a family of sheriffs.” He says it very calmly, and Dounia doesn’t realize for a long time afterward that he was telling a comforting lie. This should be a sad story, but the family lives through the darkest moments of the war with determination and grace and even humor. Dounia doesn’t let her emotions fully register until years later, when she’s telling the story to her granddaughter. On the last pages of the book, in a few quiet, powerful panels, her face shows grief and guilt and fear and resignation.
No book can sum up all of the Holocaust, but this graphic novel seems to contain every possible human emotion. Remarkably, most of the time, it does it with an oval and two dots. (Graphic historical fiction. 6-13)