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For Young Readers by Lindsey and Paige Oliver
Maus: A tale for all generations
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    Recently, people in Statesboro and America alike celebrated Free Comic Book Day, a little-known excuse for graphic novel fans to leave their tabletop role-playing games and mingle with people possessing interests similar to theirs. However, what few realize is that comic books are not simply for children and frequenters of obscure niche markets — they also possess the potential to be literary masterpieces which anyone can enjoy, including young adults. “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” is one such masterpiece. A historical and biographical look into one of the darkest periods in history by Art Spiegelman, this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel is intense and eloquent, personal and universal — a tale for all generations.
    The book itself stars Spiegelman’s father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor whose recollections of the World War II era make up the vast majority of Maus’s plot. Through flashbacks which are as rich in words as they are in images, Spiegelman depicts his father not only as a larger-than-life survivor of concentration camps and military service, but also as a man whose joys, sorrows, and fears both compliment and contradict the book’s anthropomorphic rendering of its characters. In Spiegelman’s hands, Jews become mice forced to flee from toothy Nazi cats, but Vladek and other characters featured in the book —including the author himself, who plays an active role in various subplots — are unmistakably human. It is impossible to forget that Maus is, in fact, about a real person, though not for a lack of storytelling talent on either father or son’s part; extremely engaging, the book’s text reads with all the earnestness of a novel and has just as much to offer as its art.
    However, for all of Maus’s literary merit and appeal, its subject matter is of course mature and not necessarily appropriate for young children. Though rendered in what some might consider an almost cartoonish format, its images maintain a haunting quality which, while accurate, only adds to the seriousness of the text. Maus does not shy from the dark reality of the Holocaust — genocide, suicide, and other atrocities are inherent in its subject matter, but not emphasized to a point at which more mature young adults could not handle. Spiegelman’s goal is not to shock, but to narrate, and the positive qualities of this  graphic novel should far outweigh any trepidation one might harbor towards its themes. These extend far beyond death and destruction — Maus is also a story of love, hope, and, ultimately, reconstruction, all of which weave together to form a profound map of human experience.

    Lindsey and Paige Oliver are rising 10th graders at Bulloch Academy. Their book review of a work aimed at readers ages 9-14 appears monthly in the Herald.
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