Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review: MAUS

When I first learned of the Holocaust, I was in eighth grade, and I would not have been able to handle this book at that time in my life. (In other words, if you are a middle school teacher, I do not recommend this book for your students.) This may be a graphic novel, but it's not light reading, and it's not for children. However, it can be important reading for adults. This was my second time through it. Maus, written by Art Spiegelman, is an account of the Holocaust as told by his father Vladek. The Jews are represented by mice, the Germans are cats, and the Americans are dogs. Because the people in it are in animal form (so you can identify their nationality more easily), the graphic horror of the actual events are a bit easier to take, yet they don't lose their poignancy. (The majority of the really nasty stuff happens off-panel, or "offscreen.") The way that the subject matter is handled hits the reader hard, because it's presented in an unexpected way. It breaks through any desensitization you may have built up and shows you just how gruesome the Holocaust really was-- a good lesson for humanity to keep in mind so that we can make sure it never happens again. In this day and age, I think that breaking down our desensitization to real events like this and 9/11 is a good thing... so I recommend this book "to adults only."

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