Skip to main content

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust

Review

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust

written by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Greg Salsedo and Marc Lizano
Mostly taking place in occupied France during World War II, HIDDEN is the story of Dounia, a young girl living through some truly ugly events, and discovering both people’s great capacity for kindness and almost unfathomable ability to be cruel. Set in France, it is a Holocaust story that is much less often seen --- that is much more hidden --- than the stories of the Holocaust in Germany and Poland. And even though the book is geared more towards a younger audience, the story does not hide the horror of what happened, does not try to spare the uncomfortable image or topic.
 
The graphic novel is framed as a story that Dounia tells while she is an old woman to her grandchild. It is a story designed for young people, told through a child’s eyes. Dounia first notices the changes at school, the badges that she and other Jewish people must wear, the shifts in how she is taught and who she is allowed to play with. Things escalate from there, and soon she is hidden while her parents are taken in the night, and a series of people help her escape the city and make it through the war. The actual specifics of policy and warfare are all glossed over, favoring instead only what Dounia could understand ---  that she knew bad things were happening and that she missed her parents.
 
The art is incredibly successful in evoking the appropriate emotions and feelings in ways that more realistic or adult styles would not as easily be able to. 
 
The art of the book is instantly appropriate for the tone and voice of the narrative. The style is nearly cute, the characters all having large heads and small bodies. It could be a funny children’s comic if not for the subject matter, if not for the times that the art hits so hard and viscerally that it makes it a bit uncomfortable to read. In that, though, the art is incredibly successful in evoking the appropriate emotions and feelings in ways that more realistic or adult styles would not as easily be able to. After all, this is the world through a child’s eyes, and Dounia remains fairly cheerful and innocent throughout everything, which is mirrored in how the story unfolds visually.
 
To say that HIDDEN has a happy ending would probably be a great over-simplification. With everything that happened, there can be no truly happy ending, nothing at least that would erase the wounds that were inflicted. The ending is, however, very hopeful and optimistic. The idea that this is a story that needs to be told is returned to, that this is a story that should not be hidden away or ignored. As the characters themselves reveal, though the story is painful, and though hiding it might seem like protecting people from something ugly and wrong, there is a dire importance to the story, to telling about what happened even if it is painful to do so.
 
And in the end, HIDDEN manages to reveal a different kind of Holocaust story, one that seems much less often told. As a story for children, it brings up a number of themes thatare normally held back for later years, and might be a bit uncomfortable, but which seem important for any age. For adults as well, the story unpacks with layers of meaning and interpretation, and the art wraps it all in a package that makes for a satisfying, if quick, read.

Reviewed by Charles Payseur on April 9, 2014

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
written by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Greg Salsedo and Marc Lizano

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2014
  • Genres: Graphic Novel, Holocaust
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: First Second
  • ISBN-10: 1596438738
  • ISBN-13: 9781596438736