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Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began, by Art Spiegelman

19 Apr

1991, Pantheon, ISBN 0-679-72977-1

Plot Summary: Picking up where Maus I leaves off, Maus II continues the story of Art Spiegelman’s tumultuous relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor, and tells the story of his parents’ arrival at Auschwitz through to their liberation.

After arriving at Auschwitz, Vladek and Anja are separated. Most of the story, related through Vladek’s eyes, covers Vladek’s day-to-day survival and the horrors he witnessed – the ovens, tthe brutality, and the daily fights to live and eat. He talks about the friendships he made and the often sobering reality that these friends went away one day, never to be seen again. He manages to find someone in the women’s camp to keep an eye on Anja and protect her, but when Anja is moved to Birkenau, he loses track of her.

Maus II is also Art’s attempt to work through his mother’s suicide and father’s death in 1986. He reveals his being overwhelmed with Maus’ success and his depression at not being able to match up to his father; he also explores Vladek’s survivor’s guilt over Auschwitz.

Critical Evaluation: Maus II is every bit as compelling as its predecessor. Maus introduced readers to Vladek and illustrated the beginnings of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and Maus II tells the story of survival at Auschwitz. We see the prisoners’ desperation, the fights over crusts of bread, and the Nazis’ cruelty. The misery is starkly drawn in black and white. Reading this second half of Maus, the reader can better understand the events that shaped Vladek, including his insistence on having things done his way and his obsession with his money being taken from him. We also see how Art’s parents’ experiences have shaped Art’s life. Surrounded by Holocaust survivors, from his parents to his own therapist, Art cannot separate from his father’s image; an image he does not feel he matches up to.

Reviews: Kirkus Reviews: “Full of hard-earned humor and pathos, Maus (I and II) takes your breath away with its stunning visual style, reminding us that while we can never forget the Holocaust, we may need new ways to remember.”

New York Times Books of the Century: “The reader…develops insights that are beyond the capacity of the characters; that is a mark of Mr. Spiegelman’s mastery of narrative.”

Awards: Max and Moritz Special Prize (1990); Eisner and Harvey Awards (1992); Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1992)

Reader’s Annotation: Maus II continues the story of Vladek and Art Spiegelman, picking up where Maus left off at the gates of Auschwitz.

Author Information: Art Spiegelman and his wife, artist Francoise Mouly, have worked together on Raw and The New Yorker. His success with Maus brought critical acclaim to comic books and helped bring the medium serious, scholarly attention.

Genre: Graphic novel. Subgenres: Biography/Memoir; nonfiction; history; World War II.

Booktalking Ideas: In Maus II, we learn more about Art, who is having trouble coping not only with his father’s death but the legacy he leaves behind as a concentration camp survivor. He is overwhelmed by Maus’ success and yet feels like he is unable to match up with what his father endured. Do you ever feel like you have trouble measuring up to someone in your family? Or one of your friends?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 13+

Challenge Issues/Defense: Violence, torture. Defense: Again, this is a memoir of events that Vladek experienced during World War II. To put a human face onto the suffering endured by the Jews during World War II is a good companion to what teens are learning in school. This story goes beyond pictures in a textbook.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I wanted to read the complete story of Maus.

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