By: Joseph Joffo
Illustrated by: Vincent Bailly
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: August 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2014
Jo crouched down on a cobblestone street in Paris taking careful aim with his last marble. He had lost the other ones to his brother, Maurice, and didn’t want to lose his lucky one. Tears quickly came to Jo’s eyes when Maurice pocketed the marble. “Ten-year-olds don’t cry over marbles,” Maurice exclaimed as he gave it back. It was time to hurry home to their father’s barbershop and that dreaded homework. Outside the black boots hit the cobblestones on their way to Joffo’s for haircuts. The skulls on the bands of their hats, the iron crosses on their pockets, and the swastikas could only spell trouble, trouble that their father was not unfamiliar with.
One of the soldiers began to ramble on saying, “The war is rotten. The Jews are to blame.” When Mr. Joffo told them that they were among Jews, their faces tightened and they soon left. Maurice’s and Jo’s nighttime stories from their father reminded them of the Russian pograms and how their family was forced to flee. The stories were exciting and visions of the experience entered their minds. “Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité” was the motto that set the family free in France. Soon that very freedom would be threatened again by those who forced them to wear a yellow star.
Jo and Maurice were banned from “the movies, the train,” and began to be bullied and beaten. Their father had escaped the clutches of soldiers when he was seven and soon his sons would have to travel down a similar path. Their older brothers had already made it to the Free Zone. “Yes, my sons, you’re going to go away. Today it’s your turn.” Money had been put aside for their journey to Menton, but they would have to live by their wits. “There’s one more thing you have to know,” their father explained to them. “You’re Jews, but you must never, ever admit to it. You hear? Never!” Would the Joffos once again escape the clutches of evil?
This is the stunning, powerful story of Joseph Joffo and his escape from the Nazis. The tale is based on the true story Un Sac de Billes, by Joseph Joffo. Told in a graphic novel format, the tension and excitement remain true to the much longer memoir. The tale is divided into two parts, the first concerning the long journey to the Free Zone, and the second once they arrived in Menton. Jo and Maurice, brothers who have to use their street smarts to survive, are very appealing young men. The panels of this novel are amazingly detailed and easily transport the reader back to 1940s Paris and environs. In the back of the book is a glossary, a brief discussion about France and the German occupation, and a map depicting Jo and Maurice’s long journey.
Quill says: This is a fascinating tale of survival that young history buffs will be wowed by!