I’ll start this review by saying that “Maus” is definitely not a book for boys, but it may be a hit with young men who’re ready for something different. This is a graphic novel created by cartoonist Art Speigelman, which tells the story of his father Vladek’s experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust. Although the story jumps back and forth from the present to the buildup of World War II, the interview format makes it very easy for the reader to identify with Vladek. It’s hard for us to comprehend how over six million Jews died during the holocaust, because so many individual lives quickly become nothing more than a statistic. By writing “Maus” as a graphic novel, however, Spiegelman allows the reader more insight into the lives which were lost, and also a look at the many survivors who were tragically scarred.
One unique method that Spiegelman used was to depict his characters as animals. The Jewish victims are seen as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the American GIs are shown as dogs. By using cartoonish animals as the actors in this human tragedy, Spiegelman lightens the weight of mass murder enough to keep the reader from feeling overwhelmed. Even though this book is technically considered a graphic novel, it’s actually a powerful memoir that will leave the reader changed by the end of Volume 2.
I absolutely loved Maus, and it’s one of those classics that I keep at the front of my own bookshelf at home. Again, it’s probably not the best choice for younger boys due to the mature themes, but it’s an absolute must-read for anyone old enough to study the Holocaust.