Maus I: A Survivor's Tale--My Father Bleeds History

Spiegelman, Art (1986). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN-10: 0394747232/ ISBN-13: 978-0394747231

In this graphic novel, Art Spiegelman presents, in black and white drawings and simple text boxes, a story within a story—his own relationship with his aging father ,Vladek, as ‘Artie’ interviews him about his experiences in the camps during World War II, and then the story of Vladek’s survival itself. In the drawings, the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, and the Poles are pigs. It starts when Vladek is a young man before the war living in Czechoslovakia, working as a textile salesman and considered handsome by all the girls. He meets Artie’s mother, Anja, who also survived the war, they begin a life, have a beautiful little boy, Richieu, and then the Nazis arrive in Poland. In this book Vladek is sent to Germany as forced labor, but makes it home. The family is sent to a smaller village Srodula, when their property is taken. Later they are imprisoned with other Jews in the Sosnowiec ghetto, but they have sent Richieu to live withfriends in a location they think is safer. At the end of the book, Anja and Vladek are on their way to Auschwitz, and Richieu suffers a tragic fate. This story is told in episodes, interspersed with the story of the comtemporary Vladek, his unreasonable attacks on his second wife, his emotional demands on his frsgile son, and his pathological need to save food,money, and potentially useful items.

Reader’s Annotation
The Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats in this graphic novel of the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman records his discussions with his father at the end of Vladek Spiegelman’s life, and also depicts the horrific events which lead to the imprisonment of he and his wife in Auschwitz.

It is a tragedy that, just as the victims of inhuman violence become inured to its horrific sights, we as readers become so familiar with the elements of Holocaust survivor narratives that we no longer receive their full impact. Art Spiegelman’s little drawings somehow present the story as a new thing; it’s like hearing of it for the first time. The dialogue is so evocative and realistic, and the pen-and-ink drawings are so effective—emphasizing the narrowing escape routes, and the inexorable progression of the Nazis’ plan—that many readers may find this comic book to be the most successful work created on the persecution of the Jews in World War II.

Graphic Novel

Curriculum Ties
History, English

Booktalking Ideas
What qualities in Vlatek both contribute to his survival and make him a difficult old man?
Effects on Art of his parents Survivor status ?
What is the effect on the story of making the people into animals?

Reading Level/Interest Age
8th grade -adult

Challenge Issues
Horrific events;Format?

SLJ Review available at
Pulitzer Prize; Gather comment from religious and community leaders

Why Included?
Reputation; recommendations from my own children—always wanted to read

Selection Tools
YALSA –Outstanding Books for the College Bound

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