Maus I and Maus II – Book Reviews

Art Spiegelman won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize under the category of Special Awards and Citations – Letters for his amazing graphic books Maus I and Maus II. The books comprise a powerful memoir which recounts the lives and survival of the author’s parents Vladek and Anja Spiegelman  during WWII in Poland where they were eventually captured and transported to Auswchitz. But it is also a story about Art Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father, and the impact of survival on the survivor’s family.

Told in a cartoon format where the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Nazi soldiers as cats, the story gains much of its power from the form in which it is written.

Spiegelman alternates between Poland during the war (where Vladek recounts the terrible and terrifying days of the Nazi occupation) and Rego Park, New York in the 1980s (where Art and his aging father struggle to establish meaningful lives together).

The result is a story which compels the reader to keep turning the pages while terror comes to life through vivid illustrations. It is a story of survival and finally of love – love between a man and a woman which the German camps could not destroy, and love between a father and son. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began are powerful documentaries of a family who survived the Holocaust and its impact on their future and the child who was born after the war.

This was my first foray into Graphic Art as story and I was moved and touched by it. If you decide to read Spiegelman’s work, you must read both books, back to back without a rest in between.

Highly recommended.

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  1. I checked The Complete Maus out from our public library and I could not put it down. It was my first graphic novel, as well. I picked Persepolis next, which I also recommend.

    • Teddy on August 31, 2008 at 19:59

    Though I don’t usually care for the graphic novel format, I have this and Persepolis on my TBR. Wonderful review Wendy!

    • Teddy on August 31, 2008 at 20:00

    I forgot to mention in my last comment, I nominated you for an award on my blog.

  2. I have read many great reviews of these books. I even went to B+N to look at them. I have never read a graphic novel that I can remember. So far I have not taken the plunge. 🙂

    • Rhinoa on September 1, 2008 at 01:25

    I just read this recently as well and really enjoyed it. I am always happy to hear that someone has made that first branch out into graphic novels and has enjoyed it. Maybe try reading Persepolis next about a girl growing up in Iran.

    • Wendy on September 1, 2008 at 08:06

    Carrie: Glad you enjoyed Maus as I did – I’ve heard great things about Persepolis…might have to check that out now 🙂

    Teddy: Thanks Teddy – these are very quick reads. I finished each one with only about an hour to 2 hours of reading.

    Brittanie: Take the plunge! I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

    Rhinoa: *nods* Now that I know graphics are enjoyable, I’ll be more likely to try more of them. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Trish on September 1, 2008 at 10:27

    I recently finished my first graphic novel as well (Persepolis, which I highly recommend). This will be my next–glad you liked it so much!

    • Nicola on September 1, 2008 at 10:45

    I must read this soon but I’ll have ILL it since my library doesn’t have it. I’ve become very interested in non-fiction graphic novels.

  3. I’d also like to recommend Persepolis. It may be as good as Maus.

    • Wendy on September 2, 2008 at 07:06

    Trish and CB James: I guess I really need to read Persepolis because there seems to be an overwhelming majority of people who loved it!

    Nicola: I bought these on the buy 2, get one free table at B&N 🙂

  4. This was also my first Graphic Novel, introduced to me by none other than Philip Pullman probably the best part of fifteen years ago now. Pullman has always been a fan of the Graphic Novel and this was at a workshop he was running long before ‘His Dark Materials’ was published. His enthusiasm was infectious and I’ve returned to them many times since and always introduced students to them.

    • Wendy on September 5, 2008 at 21:11

    Ann – glad to see you also found these books fabulous…

  5. I just read this one this past month and for the most part enjoyed it. Graphic novels is a very new thing for me.

    • Wendy on September 8, 2008 at 07:26

    Natasha: I think Graphic novels take a little getting used to – these two books are great ones to start with.

    • 3m on September 9, 2008 at 20:08

    SO GLAD you loved these as much as I did. Truly profound books.

    • Wendy on September 11, 2008 at 07:23

    Michelle: *nods* I was surprised how much I liked them – I was a little leery of the graphic format…but found that is what made the books so powerful.

    • Heidi Merki on April 20, 2010 at 06:48

    I am requiring my 10th graders to read it in class . . . it is a wonderful story . . . but I am killing myself trying to figure out the translation of the Hebrew prayer that appears on page 54 of book I – – – I know the 1st word of the 2nd line is y’chb (Jacob) and the last word is yshr’l (Israel) – but I can’t figure out any of the others . . . Is there ANYONE who can help me out? My students are curious and my Hebrew is more than a little rusty! Thanks!!!

    • Wendy on April 20, 2010 at 06:52

    Hi Heidi, Thanks for stopping by…this is a fantastic book for high school readers, I think. Unfortunately, I speak not a word of Hebrew, so I won’t be much help here! I wonder if you email the publisher if they can put you in contact with the author so he can translate it for you? Might be worth a try!

    • Anna on July 27, 2010 at 10:28

    Hey Heidi…that hebrew prayer is called Mah tovu. Here is the translation of it: How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Hope that helps, if you want to find out more info on that prayer just google it. I’m sure you’ll be able to find tons of information about it.

    • dave on April 26, 2011 at 07:16

    I am amazes by the comments of praise for books like Persepolis, and the fact that academics really believe that it is good literature. It is a decent story, and the graphics are done well, but it not what I consider to be a quality novel.

    What is worse, because professional reviewers have given the thumbs up to these kind of novels they are making their way into grade school and JH classrooms.

    I could see addressing the subject matter in HS but not grade school or JH, especially due the graphic or violent nature of the art and words.

    I think we’ve gone too far in pushing complex topics to younger grades.

    So although the book is done well, and even though I do not appreciate some of the images or words, I think it is an interesting and thought provoking book.

    I caution teachers and parents to be careful with exposing this kind of content (I am referring to the graphic depiction both visually and in words) to children under 13. The story/topic may be an important one and one that should be communicated, but I am wondering if literature should come with disclaimers or (should I even say it…) content ratings that provide parents and school administrators a tool to choose books appropriate for their children.

    • Wendy on April 26, 2011 at 07:37

    Hi Dave,

    I was a little confused at first by your comment because you spoke of Persopolis (and this review was of Maus I & II). It is not just reviewers who appreciate these books, but also academics. Art Spiegelman won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize under the category of Special Awards and Citations – Letters for Maus I & Maus II…so even if you do not think they are worthy, others do.

    I have to disagree that because a book gets an amazing review that means it is then introduced into the schools. There are many wonderful, well written books which I love, but which I do not think are necessarily appropriate for younger readers. Should I give those books a bad review just because it is not a book for kids? Of course not! That would just be silly.

    But, that said – I do think that we should have discussions about complex topics with our JH and HS age kids…and I think that these kinds of discussions are healthy and important. As far as the government posting comment ratings on books – I could not disagree more! Parents should not need a third party to dictate what books would be appropriate for their children – they should read the books in question and make their own decisions based on their knowledge of their children and whether or not those children are mature enough to handle the material in a given book.

    My last thought: we don’t need a moral police in this country. I am so very tired of people in government and special interest groups trying to legislate morality or tell us what is good for us (or our kids). Our rights to make our own personal decisions are being stripped away from us every day in this country…the last thing I want to see are restrictions placed on reading. Disclaimers, content ratings, etc…should not be needed if parents are INVOLVED in their kids’ lives. I am afraid that many people who want these things come to it with an agenda.

  6. “Maus” is really impressive. I also liked Rutu Modan’s 2 graphic novels “Exil Wounds”, “Jamilti” about Israel:

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