Review by Ian Keogh
To anyone who knows their history, the title of I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 may seem inaccurate, as by 1944 the Nazis were retreating all over Europe. However, as the story rolls out, the context is clarified to mean the invasion of a limited area.
As is always the case in I Survived, a story about children is weaved into historical events, in this case Jewish children Max and Zena, seen in the sample art escaping a Polish ghetto ringed with barbed wire.
Unlike the two previous I Survived graphic novels a fair amount of historical context is required to explain the how and why of Jewish persecution leading up to and during World War II in the 1930s and 1940s. This is efficiently supplied without greatly interrupting the flow of the ongoing escape, and subsequent pages convey the disagreements among Jewish people, some of whom thought keeping their heads down and appeasing the Nazis would be of greater value than fighting back.
For this third volume it’s pleasing to see new artist Álvaro Sarraseca cover-credited, but that still doesn’t apply to Georgia Ball for adapting the Lauren Tarshis novel, who is only credited inside.
Sarraseca’s storytelling and emotional content is well delivered in a way that never draws attention. There are occasional scenes, such as on the sample art, where there’s feeling of weightlessness about the people, but that’s inconsequential when weighed against the effort put into technology and surroundings. His diligence extends to supplying a map of Europe as it was in 1944, considerably different to today.
I Survived the Nazi Invasion also differs from the previous books by setting up a tense situation and maintaining that tension all the way through. Max and Zena’s safety is never certain, and while younger readers will forget the title being I Survived, there’s no guarantee that survival applies to both of them, nor to the people they hook up with. It’s a real nail-biter with the threats many and constant. There’s a long coda, explaining what people did once the Nazis were beaten, which also has an emotional pull, and as is customary the book ends with an extensive selection of reference and explanation pages.
The next volume is I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001.