Friday, February 10, 2006

Booknote: Yossel April 19, 1943

Title: Yossel April 19, 1943: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto
Author: Joe Kubert
Publication Information: New York: ibooks, 2003
ISBN: 1-59687-826-6
Genre: Graphic novel
Subgenre: Holocaust literature, historical novel

Note on the edition: This graphic novel received a nomination for the Eisner Award in 2004 and two nominations for the Harvey Award in 2004.

This is the story of a boy who could have grown up to be a gifted artist had he lived in a different era. However, young Yossel is a Jewish boy living in Nazi-occupied Poland. His family is sent to the Warsaw ghetto. At the start of the story, the Final Solution and the concentration camps were just a rumor, a fairy tale. However, when a camp escapee makes his way to the ghetto and reveals the horrors, it is no longer a fairy tale. Yossel draws, and it helps him escape his reality. However, over time, he finds a need to document what he sees and hears. The story is illustrated in pencil sketches. In the introduction, Kubert explains that in graphic novels and comics, an artist first draws in pencil, then inks over the pencil sketches, and then color is added. However, to give the sense that these are the sketches of a young boy on the run, drawing whenever he had a chance, Kubert chose to draw and maintain the pencil sketches. The result is that the readers get the boy's point of view in the story, and the reader also gets a strong feel of the grittiness, the dirt, and the horror of the story's setting in a way that a story illustrated in any other way cannot convey. The story leads up to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a real event. Readers will definitely be moved by this narrative. This graphic novel should be included in any reading list of works on the Holocaust. It is another great example of how the medium of graphic novels can be used to tell a story, in this case a story that we should never forget.

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