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A Bag of Marbles : The Graphic Novel - Joseph Joffo

A Bag of Marbles

The Graphic Novel

By: Joseph Joffo, Vincent Bailly (Illustrator)

Paperback | 1 August 2013

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Based on an autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffe and adapted with the author's input. In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father's barbershop. This is the day their life takes a big tum, as two SS officers enter the shop without realising the owner, and in fact most of the customers, are Jewish. The effects of the Occupation begin to impinge on the family's lives, and their parents decide the boys must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone. The scene where his father teaches ten-year-old Joseph never to admit that he's Jewish is particularly harrowing. The journey by train, ferry, and on foot requires ingenuity and teamwork to elude the Nazis; there are threats from strangers and help from unexpected quarters. Joseph's caution and resourcefulness contrasts with the sometimes reckless bravery of the older Maurice, who, after their guide deposits them helpless in the middle of the woods to find the route themselves, takes on the task of escorting other groups of refugees.
Industry Reviews

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. --Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal"

Ten-years-old at the start of the story, Joffo recalls his Jewish family planning their escape from Occupied France during World War II. Tension runs through the story as he and his brother set off on the long journey to the Free Zone, where they plan to meet up with their older brothers. Along the way the boys must hide their Jewish identity, evade train security, and find a passeur, or guide, to take them past guard posts and fences to safe territory. Readers are never allowed to forget the danger the boys are in as they encounter friends and foes and attempt to discern whom they can trust. Bailly's painterly artwork is well suited to the compelling, well-told narrative. Unfortunately, it is crowded on dense, dialogue-heavy and tightly packed pages, preventing readers to view more closely the detailed, layered artwork. This title will appeal to readers interested in memoirs about World War II and has enough action to hold their attention. It's a welcome addition to graphic-novel collections, but layout problems preclude it from being a must-have. --School Library Journal

-- "Journal"

The opening scene in this graphic novel (adapted from Joffo's 1973 adult memoir of the same name) features the author at ten years old, crying over a lost marble. But for Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, innocence is fleeting: two years later, the now-world-weary boy has much more to cry about as he observes, 'The Nazis haven't taken my life away yet, but they've stolen my childhood.' During those two years young Jo and his brother Maurice manage to stay one step ahead of the Germans, scurrying from one place to the next as they travel through southern France, hoping to reunite with their two grown brothers near the Italian border. Despite the tragedy and danger inherent in the wartime setting, it's not all gloom and doom. Jo and Maurice are likable, impressively resourceful boys--no matter the city or town, the brothers forge fast friendships, flashing impish grins as they plan their latest scheme. The book's relatively busy layout is balanced by Bailly's gorgeously detailed illustrations--one can almost smell the sea air as the brothers bum around the coastal town of Menton. A map of France during the war, a glossary, and an author's note are included in this welcome addition to the rich Holocaust literary canon. --The Horn Book Magazine

-- "Journal"

This marvelously conceived and executed graphic memoir, adapted from Joffo's 1973 book of the same name, tells the story of four Jewish brothers who spend WWII hiding from Nazi soldiers in Vichy France. When the Germans arrive, the boys' father sends them off in pairs to separate destinations, instructing them never to reveal their Jewish identities to anyone. The two younger boys, Jo (the author) and Maurice, travel from city to city, always one step ahead of arrest. Sometimes they're saved by decent French citizens ('Oh, the children are with me, ' says a priest, casually). More often, desperation makes the boys quick-witted, as when they persuade an interrogator that what appears to be circumcision is the result of surgery for adhesions. The brothers' courage, Joffo makes clear in the story's early pages, has its source in their father's valor. He dies in the camps, but his wife and sons survive. Bailly's artwork carries much of the story's emotional impact--every character is drawn with care, and every scene is crammed with atmospheric detail. Not to be missed. --starred, Publishers Weekly

-- "Journal"

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