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A Family Secret Paperback – Unabridged, 7 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; 1 edition (7 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330519824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330519823
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 28 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

While searching his grandmother's attic for likely items to sell at a jumble sale Jeroen finds a scrapbook his grandmother made during World War II. It brings back painful memories for her and she tells Jeroen for the first time about her experiences as a girl living in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands and about he loss of her Jewish best friend. In this gripping, historically accurate graphic novel, ordinary people in different roles - from victim to bystander to perpetrator - make the most difficult, important decisions of their lives.

About the Author

Eric Heuvel is one of the top graphic artists in the Netherlands. He specialises in writing and illustrating educational graphic novels.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By catie on 26 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
A fantastic graphic novel. The drawings are very clear and beautiful,
The story manages to convey a huge amount of information about the war (propaganda, collaboration, resistance, rationing...) and the nazis occupation. And yet, helped by the pictures, it remains clear and accessible.
The story of 2 best friends Helena and Hester is gripping and moving. One of the best book to explain the war to children as Helena,now an old lady, recalls the war days and her friendship with Hester, a jewish girl, for the benefit of her grandson. Suitable and full of facts for adults too (the story is set in Holland). I am reading it with my 10 year old and we both love it.
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Format: Paperback
I lovely story, though sad, bringing to life true history under the Nazis.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children 13 Oct 2009
By Yana V. Rodgers - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jeroen wanted to find some unusual items to sell at the Dutch Queen's Day flea market, and his grandmother's attic seemed like the perfect place to look. It did not take long before he found a scrapbook and other memorabilia that his grandmother Helena had saved from World War II. The discovery prompted Helena to tell Jeroen a long story about her best friend Esther, a Jewish girl who fled to the Netherlands with her parents after facing persecution by the Nazis in their German home town. Helena's story became increasingly more complicated and alarming as it reflected the progression of the war and the Nazi occupation.

Similar to the deep rifts that grew across the Dutch population, Helena's family became divided in their loyalties as one of her brothers joined the Nazi forces, her other brother joined the Dutch Resistance, and her father cooperated with the Germans in order to save his job. Helena and her mother sided with the Dutch Resistance, but they despaired over the constant arguments within their family and the growing violence, destruction, and shortages of food and fuel all around them. Ultimately Helena even lost her friend Esther in the events surrounding another round-up of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators, including Helena's father. Helena never knew what became of her friend or what role her father played in Esther's disappearance.

This graphic novel, published in agreement with the Anne Frank House and in cooperation with the Resistance Museum of Friesland, does a remarkable job in communicating to middle grade readers some of the most perplexing and disturbing events in Dutch history. Award-winning Eric Heuvel's contribution will make a valuable addition to curricular materials not only about the Holocaust, but also about the lesser-known events associated with the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and the Dutch Resistance.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Family Secret 13 April 2010
By Jewish Book World Magazine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This graphic novel was originally published in conjunction with the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. A Family Secret, written in cooperation with the Resistance Museum of Friesland, gives an overview of the Netherlands during the war, through the story of Helena, a Dutch girl, and her good friend Esther. A Family Secret gives a very detailed overview of the war, from the Dutch point of view. The information could be overwhelming to a young reader without much background knowledge. For example, many children might not understand the discussion of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch colony in Indonesia. Characters in the book represent the spectrum of morality - from innocent victims and heroic resistance fighters, to passive bystanders, collaborators, or evil Nazis. Because of the graphic novel format, there isn't much elaboration as to the nuances of each character's choices. The violence is kept low key in the illustrations; guns are aimed, but there is no blood or dead bodies. This too, however, might mislead young readers, as the worst violence depicted is a Japanese guard whipping a Dutch woman.

The illustrations are in a realistic style, very similar to the drawings in the Tintin comics. This gives the book an old-fashioned look, appropriate to the subject matter. The graphic novel medium will lure reluctant readers or students who enjoy this format. Unfortunately, the cartoon format may attract readers who are too young for the subject matter. A Family Secret would be best for someone with some background knowledge of World War II. The book should also appeal to readers interested in Anne Frank's life. For ages 11-14. Hilary Zana
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great read for kids and adults alike 28 Nov 2012
By Rutikazooty - Published on
Format: Paperback
I bought this and the follow-up book: The Search at the U.S. Holocaust Museum Bookstore last year, for my 10-year old. My parents are Holocaust survivors so I am kind of picky about these books. These are fantastic fantastic graphic novels and should be read by lots and lots of people. My son enjoyed reading them as did I.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Solid Read and a Good Introduction to a Far Deeper Story 2 Nov 2009
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
By now, the historical events of the Nazi occupation and subsequent Holocaust, as well as related subjects, have been visited in graphic novel form more times than I can count, probably most notably with Art Spiegelman's epic and effective Maus. It's a subject that deserves repetition; so many artists and authors have laid their craft to telling and retelling aspects and subtleties of the stories that came from there.

A Family Secret begins with a teenager's search through an attic for stuff to sell in a tag sale and evolves into his grandmother telling him about her experiences as a "safe" Dutch citizen, and then moves into the tale of her Jewish friend Esther, who suffered through the terror of the Holocaust. The framing device of "teenager finding stuff in an attic" only takes up a few panels in the collective story, and his reactions to his grandmother's tale seem to be almost indifferent and don't add anything to the overall graphic novel. I remain confused as to why they were included at all, but perhaps they provide a relatable point of entry for the intended audience of children.

Most comics that deal with the effects of Nazi Germany incorporate historical first- or second-person accounts of actual events and people, but Eric Heuvel's A Family Secret chooses to approach the topic from a fictional, or hypothetical, angle. While it is firmly rooted in history and delivers accurate facts along an accurate timeline, some of the impact of the actual story is mitigated by the fact that it will inevitably be compared to "actual events," which are generally more gripping. Regardless, it was an easy read in one sitting, and it presented history in a way that even I could understand, as someone who is notoriously bewildered when it comes to that type of thing. This artist's work has actually come under fire from the Central Council of Jews in Germany as oversimplifying history, though I doubt it intends to act as an encyclopedia of events. Instead, it's a gateway into further study.

The line art is crisp and beautiful, and probably the best part of the book itself, though the style might not complement the subject matter as much as it could. Again, it's another aspect that provides accessibility to the audience.

And for a story about the Holocaust, there is very limited violence and no profanity. It should be appropriate for any age reader who is prepared to learn about this portion of history. If you enjoy this, the story and characters are expanded upon in The Search, also by Heuvel. Even if they never move past the world of being just characters on a page, it's a solid read and a good introduction to a far deeper story.

-- Collin David
An effective way for people to learn about the German occupation of Holland in WWII 6 Jan 2014
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on
Format: Paperback
This graphic novel is a history lesson, an examination of what it was like in the Netherlands during World War II. Even though the Dutch government declared their neutrality that meant nothing to the Nazi leaders. Despite having antiquated weapons, the Dutch army fought well, being the brutal thugs that they Nazis were the Dutch were convinced to surrender by the indiscriminant bombing of Rotterdam. During the five-year German occupation, the Germans were hard masters, rounding up all "undesirables" and killing hostages to get their way. The Dutch people lived in fear and some felt they had no choice but to collaborate to survive.
Using the premise of finding a scrapbook in an attic, the author has a grandmother flash back to her experiences during the occupation. She was a young girl with a Jewish friend; her family had fled Germany to avoid the Nazis. The inherent ambiguity of the situation and the struggles the Dutch people had to survive as well as the underground resistance is examined. The father of the young Dutch girl was a policeman that had a sworn duty to uphold the law, which he did.
The stresses of the Dutch family are considerable as the individuals are on all sides of the conflict. Therefore, the complete story of the position of the Dutch people is told, from extreme collaboration to complete resistance. This is a graphic novel that could be used to effectively teach people about life under the German occupation in World War II.
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