Book Review: A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo and Vincent Baily

A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo and Vincent Baily is a historical graphic novel for tweens and teens. In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father's barbershop. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone. Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. If they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish. During their travels, the boys face threats from strangers and receive unexpected help. Based on an autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo and adapted with the author's input, this true story offers a harrowing but inspiring glimpse of a childhood cut short.

In A Bag of Marbles, Joseph Joffo tells the story of his childhood, a story that touches the heart. I am not a person that enjoys reading about the horrors and persecution people have inflicted on each other. However, for some reason I picked this up. It took me a couple tries to read it, mainly because I had to be in the right mindset to deal with the WWII era. However, as soon as I really got started I was impressed with Vincent Baily's watercolor style artwork and the way the story was told through those illustrations as well as Jaffo's words. I think this is a great resource for bringing home the facts of the Holocaust to middle grade and older readers. The story of these boys is something that they can connect with and make the history that we think we know much more poignant. This is not the typical narrative, not what you generally get when you pick up a book about children in WWII, and I think that makes it that much more touching and interesting. I am interested in reading the memoir from Jaffo, which this graphic novel was adapted from, to see how the two compare.

I would highly recommend A Bag of Marbles to readers that are interested in the WWII era and the realities of what some of the luckier Holocaust survivors went through. I think this would be a great classroom resource when discussing the time and war, in order to make the dates and words in the history books mean a little more to students.

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