Review: A Bag of Marbles

A Bag of MarblesA Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo – Graphic Novel

Lerner Publishing (Graphic Universe): MN (2013)

ISBN13: 9781467707008

This story is based on the true story of Joseph Joffo who, at the age of ten in 1941, was sent by his father to go with his older brother, given fifty francs and instructions to flee Nazi-occupied Paris for unoccupied France. The story of their survival is amazing but this presentation of the story is not. The boys’ journey takes them across a dangerous landscape via every type of transportation available and on foot.

I was disappointed with the language choices in this book and frankly I think younger readers would find it disappointing as well. It is not authentic and appears to be written in the hopes of attracting a specific age of reader rather than to make a great story that could be enjoyed by readers of any age. With phrases such as ‘hop to it’ ‘don’t have a fit’ ‘hold your horses’ ‘stop blubbering’ ‘you’re gonna get it’ and ‘doorbell ditches’ set against the backdrop of 1941 Paris, the symmetry is severely lacking. It is difficult to imagine YA readers buying in without realizing the graphic has been dumbed down.

However, I was very impressed with the graphic art itself. The street scenes, characters and situational depictions are beautifully done and integrated into an amazing journey of their own. I especially liked the graphics of the story within the story that the boys’ father tells them at bedtime. The drawings are stylized to offset them from the main graphic novel content. It is a common technique but cleverly used here.

Quantitative: ATOS 2.5

Qualitative: Middle Grades (6-8) The story is graphic and contains violence and some profanity. The themes of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany and occupied France, anti-Semitism and violence against Jews are depicted visually which brings them into stark focus for readers. Recommended for mature readers with prior knowledge of these themes.

Content Area: History – European – France – Nazis; History – Jewish; History – Holocaust; Biography; WWII;

Common Core Standards: RI.6.2, RI.6.3, RI.6.7, RI.6.9; RI.8.1, RI.8.3, RI.8.7

Additional/Digital Content:

National Holocaust Museum website – Educator resources:

Holocaust survivor stories and links:

Personal Notes: The original published version of this story (published by University of Chicago Press, 2001) was also a graphic novel, intended for ages 11-18. Joseph Joffo first published his memoir in France in 1971 and it has since been translated into 18 languages since then.

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