The War Within These WallsBook - 2013
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This is a progressive graphic novel that touches on conflict between man against society and man against himself. The year is 1940, World War II, this story of the holocaust is told through the eyes and the heart of a young man, in his early teens, named Misha. Nazi forces have invaded Poland and walled off a portion of the city Warsaw (ironically named)and have moved the city’s population of Jews behind this wall in order to segregate, trap, and control this entire religious community. Tremendous overcrowding, rationing of food, and other inhumane conditions eventually lead to the habitual daily life of disease, hunger, starvation, fear, and death. The only way for enough food to come into this walled off portion of Warsaw is for it to be smuggled, either by way of graveyard while the dead are being discarded or through the underground tunnels of the city’s sewage line. Misha sees his mother slowly dying of poor health and his father and younger sister starving literally starving to death, he decides to risk being captured in order to feed his family. The tactic works for a while, but eventually the Nazi forces catch on to the what has been going on and visibly display tortured and beaten body of the individuals that they catch. Increased security efforts on the side of the Nazi’s makes the smuggling scheme too dangerous for Misha to continue bringing food for his family. But once Misha stops, his little sister decides to take over the now deserted position, until the day she doesn’t come back and Misha is compelled to tell his parents a lie that she had escaped rather than letting them know to truth behind her disappearance. Then in 1943, the Nazi’s begin transporting Jews to concentration camps under the guise of resettling them. Just at a moment in the book when Misha gives up, a rebel group determined to fight back no matter how hopeless the outcome will turn, this actual Warsaw rebellion group make contact with Misha and recruit him to help in their operations. The graphic novel concludes Misha as being only one of two survivors within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto. Once again Misha is conflicted whether or not to just give up until the other surviving Jewish rebel convinces Misha it is now his mission to escape and let everyone know the truth of what took place.
The battle between the Germans and those trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII is the main focus of this novel that should attract a teen audience. The format of the book is really inviting - a novel in free verse is paired with distinctive b&w illustrations making this a hybrid between a graphic novel and a novel in poetry. The main character, Misha, is fictional but there are real life people featured as well, making this historical fiction that is moving and with a gravitas and authenticity that will grab the reader. High school history teachers could find this a great book for a class reading assignment.
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Bhulsey thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over
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