Publisher's Note:  

In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone. Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. And if they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish. The boys travel by train, by ferry, and on foot, facing threats from strangers and receiving help from unexpected quarters. Along the way they must adapt to the unfamiliar world beyond their city—and find a way to be true to themselves even as they conceal their identities. Based on an autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo and adapted with the author’s input, this true story offers a harrowing but inspiring glimpse of a childhood cut short.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Lerner Publishing Group

A Bag of Marbles

by Joseph Joffo

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Overall Review:  

A Bag of Marbles is an absolutely unique WWII story, made better because it's true. Vincent Bailly's illustrations beautifully complement the text from the original work.


We don't often think about what Jews in countries that were invaded by Germany went through to maintain their freedom, or how NAZI philosophy totally permeated Europe. This book opens a reader's eyes to the Jews' situation outside of the countries we read about most.


Most enjoyable was the relief of seeing Jo navigate his difficulties without having to endure some of the atrocities that happened in other countries. I still got a very strong sense of the trauma war inflicts on children, however--even when they're not interred in concentration camps.


I got lost a few times in this graphic novel, but I was able to pick up the thread of the story without too much trouble. Still, the number of times I had to go back and reread was more than most young readers will be patient with. It left me thinking I'd like to read the original book to get the whole story. 

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 2 mild obscenities; 3 scatological words; 10 derogatory names.


Violence/Gore:  A character slaps another character in the face; a character punches another character in the face; intense situations in which Nazis are questioning people, demanding papers, chasing characters.


Sex/Nudity:  Adolescent characters walk past a brothel and are teased by the occupants with mild innuendo; a character is asked to remove clothing so officials can determine whether or not he has been circumcised.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Children are separated from parents; War; Interrogation by Nazis

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

A minor is seen smoking briefly; adult characters smoke and drink alcohol socially.

Reviewed By Leslie
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