Saturday, August 4, 2012

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began

Bibliographic Information: Spiegelman, A.  (1991).  Maus II: A survivor's tale: And here my troubles began. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN: 978-0-679-72977-8

Plot Summary: Art Spiegelman draws a parallel story in this graphic novel between his father's last years in the Holocaust and his father's present day life. Spiegelman begins the story with him and his wife staying with some friends in Vermont. He then learns that his father's wife has left him, leaving him all alone and sick in his Catskills vacation home. Spiegelman decides to go and check in on his father, Vladek, even though he would greatly prefer not to. Spiegelman and his wife, Franç
oise, drive over to visit his father and spend a tense weekend trying to get along. Spiegelman decides to take advantage of being there and asks his father to tell him more about his time in the concentration camps. Spiegelman intends to write a book of his father's experiences and wants to capture the hardships his father endured. Spiegelman perfectly captures the difficulty of living with a survivor and the possibility that perhaps his father may not have survived after all. 

Critical Evaluation: Spiegelman's style of dialogue in Maus II speaks volumes about the characters and their experiences. Vladek's accent and English skills are translated in the way in which the dialogue is formatted. Often Vladek speaks with his functions of speech out of order asking his son questions like, "Why to tell?? This wasn't her business" (37) and "Well...Come! We have now to carry up my storm windows to put in" (103). Spiegelman is able to convey the fact that his father, who used his English skills to survive during the Holocaust, continues to use words to the best of his abilities. Vladek's dialogue with his son may be a constant reminder to Spiegelman of the experience that his father survived. The words that Vladek uses to describe his experience are a reminder of the deals he had to make, the solutions he had to find, and the necessity of putting himself first in order to survive. In this way, all the recordings that Spiegelman took of his father are a constant reminder of his inability to truly comprehend what his father and mother experienced. This realization has affected Spiegelman's life as his thoughts and feelings bleed into the dialogue of his characters in Maus II. The dialogue of Maus II is a powerful tool that describes several layers of loss, survival, and constant sorrow. Vladek's words not only carry the story but give shape to it; a dark shadow that will forever loom in Spiegelman's presence.

Reader’s Annotation:
Surviving traumatic events is sometimes only half the battle.
Information About the Author: Art Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden on February 15, 1948 (, 2012). His parents were Vladek and Anja Spiegelman, both survivors of the Holocaust (Spiegelman, 2012).  Both Maus I and Maus II are dedicated to telling their stories of survival, their loses, and great hardship (Spiegelman, 2012). Though born in Sweden, Spiegelman grew up in Rego Park, New York (, 2012). He later enrolled in a university in New York but was unable to complete his studies due to a breakdown (, 2012). Spiegelman then joined the Topps Gum Co. where he stayed for 20 years (, 2012). Spiegelman worked on a variety of art related projects with the company (, 2012). He did not end up writing Maus I and Maus II until years later (1986 and 1991 respectively). Maus II earned Spiegelman a Special Pulitzer Prize in 1992 (, 2012). Spiegelman currently lives with his wife and children in Manhattan (, 2012).

Spiegelman's other great works are: "Bazooka Joe" comics,  "Garbage Pail Kids," "Cabbage Patch Kids,"  and founded the magazine RAW (Real Art Works) in 1990 (, 2012).


Europe, World War II and the Holocaust

Curriculum Ties: Can be worked into a lesson on the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and World War II. Can also be used to discuss the way in which graphic novels capture history.

Booktalking Ideas:

1). What do the different animal identities say about the characters in this story?
2). Is it easier or harder to deal with the brutality of the Holocaust when it is in a graphic novel format?
3). What does Spiegelman mean by writing that the story is even about the  "children who somehow survive even the survivors?"

Reading Level/Interest Age: Lexile Prefex: NP/YA (Follett's Titlewave, 2012). 

Challenge Issues: This book is a gruesome account of  the Holocaust. I would use the following items to defend this book if it was challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this graphic novel in the titles you selected?:
I chose this graphic novel because of Art Spiegelman's intense and honest allegorical representation of his father's experience in the Holocaust. Teen readers will be able to learn the impact of Hitler's regime while analyzing the art and images that Spiegelman chose to use to express the different players and roles in World War II.

Reference Page:

Follett's Titlewave.  (2012).  Maus II.  Retrieved August 4, 2012 from Follett's Titlewave iPhone App.  (2012).  Biography of Art Spiegelman.  Retrieved August 4, 2012 from  (2012). Art Spiegelman.  Retrieved August 4, 2012 from

cover art:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.