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A Family Secret Paperback – Unabridged, 7 Jan 2011
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A graphic novel developed by The Anne Frank House.
About the Author
Eric Heuvel is one of the top graphic artists in the Netherlands. He specialises in writing and illustrating educational graphic novels.
Top customer reviews
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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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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
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