Hidden, A Graphic Novel About the Holocaust

Hidden - Cover of Graphic Novel
First Second

Book Summary

Hidden is a touching graphic novel that gently introduces young readers to the Holocaust.  The book’s creators are the French graphic novel team of Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo, with the translation by Alexis Siegel. Encouraged by her granddaughter after a nightmare, Dounia, now a grandmother, breaks her silence about her childhood as a young Jewish girl living in France during the Holocaust.

   

As a young girl Dounia’s life was turned upside down when Jewish families were rounded up in France to be sent to camps. Separated from her parents, she is cared for and by protected by many people who hope to reunite her someday with her family. After many years of silence, Dounia finally shares her painful childhood with her granddaughter.  Hidden was created for younger children up to young teens, the 6-13 years old age range.

The Story

A young girl wakes up to hear her grandmother crying.  Crawling into the older woman’s lap, the girl seeks to comfort her grandmother by insisting she talk about her nightmare. Thus, Dounia begins the tale finally revealing her traumatic experience growing up as a Jewish girl in Paris during the Holocaust.  Young Dounia lived a happy life in France and loved attending school.

One day she is surprised by the sudden dislike directed at her by her teacher and several classmates.

She is sent to the back of the class told not to speak.  At home her father gives her a gold star to pin to her sweater and explains they are now a “family of sheriffs.”  

Feeling slightly ridiculous with her star, Dounia goes to school only to discover several of her friends have disappeared.  Concerned for her safety, Dounia’s parents hide her in a closet and make her promise to stay there until someone comes to get her.

Frightened and alone, Dounia is taken care of by many kind individuals who protect and keep her safe while she awaits the day when she will be reunited with her parents.

The French Team of Dauvillier, Lizano and  Salsedo

Frenchmen Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo enjoy busy careers in writing, illustration, and coloring in their native country. Dauvillier has written many picture books and adaptions of classics. Lizano has illustrated more than forty books for young readers and adults working in many genres. Salsedo is a highly regarded graphic designer and colorist.  

A discussion guide  provided by Macmillan Publishing highlights the careers of Dauvillier, Lizano, and Salsedo and explains why the team chose to write and illustrate Hidden using a deliberate format that took into consideration a younger audience. In January 2015, all three authors and illustrators were awarded the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award which is given to books of high literary quality that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

My Recommendation

A powerful book about the Holocaust, Hidden is a thoughtfully designed book in both words and pictures that makes introducing the difficult and disturbing topic of the Holocaust accessible to a young audience.

With a tone that is at once hopeful and reflective, an older Dounia talks to her granddaughter about a time when she was young - a frightening time.  The storyline is issue-oriented as it brings up the topic of the Holocaust and what it was like for Dounia to be a Jewish girl living in France. The positioning of the granddaughter in the safety and comfort of her grandmother’s arms while learning about bullying, intolerance, and loss of family - all frightening topics - is very deliberate in helping young readers to also feel safe with these issues. In addition, as grandmother Dounia talks, she uses easy-to- understand and spare language that a young child can follow. 

The gentle pacing of the story through large story panels aids in the presentation of the story. Additionally, the muted colors and cartoon quasi-Charlie Brown style of the characters with overly large heads and small bodies makes the introduction to disturbing and difficult topics more approachable.

   Every page of Hidden, from the front cover design to inside jacket flaps to the back cover, was drawn with deliberate intent.  Explanations and in-depth detail about the illustrations are available to read in an article from First Second Books.

Hidden is a story not only highlighting a period of history, but it is a more personal book about one woman’s ability to finally find closure and a connection to her family.  A granddaughter’s attempt to comfort her grandmother turns into a time of healing for a woman who has borne years of suffering and sorrow in silence.  A visually and emotionally satisfying book, Hidden was written and illustrated to gently and sensitively introduce a younger audience to a period of history that needs to be discussed.

Hidden is a quick read and easily finished in one sitting, but the impression it leaves is long-lasting. The publisher recommends Hidden for ages 6-13, but parents should be prepared to guide younger children though the story.  Publisher First Second provides a reading discussion guide of Hidden for parents and educators. (First Second, 2014. ISBN: 9781596438736)