Lily Renée Wilheim had a happy childhood, but her teen years were marred by war. When she was 14, the Nazis invaded her native Austria, and Lily Renée and other Jews were persecuted and selected for concentration camp internment and death. Her parents were able to get her onto one of the last Kindertransports out of Vienna. Lily Renée moved in with her British pen pal, not realizing that her pen pal’s mother wanted a servant, not a house-guest. As she struggled to find better work and make a life in England, Lily Renée was targeted as an “enemy alien” by the government. Finally she was able to reconnect with her parents and move to America, where she found work in the comic book industry, drawing strong women who fought the evil Nazis.
Lily Renée, Escape Artist: from Holocaust survivor to comic book pioneer
Written by Trina Robbins, Illustrated by Anne Timmons
Ages: 9-12; Grades 4-7
Lerner, November 2011, 96 pages
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-7613-6010-0, $29.27
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7613-8114-3, $7.95
ebook ISBN 978-0-7613-7962-1, $21.95
Lily Renée’s story is interesting enough to overcome the slightly overblown tone of this comic bio. Emotions are always over-the-top, rendered in wide eyes and startled gestures, most of which are not really needed as even without them children will understand that Lily Renée is suffering. At times the story seems choppy, but overall it is a fast read that will intrigue readers. What is most engaging is Lily Renée’s strength. She never comes across as a superhero but instead is an ordinary girl who is faced with extraordinary circumstances and simply works hard to get through them.
The creators truly outdo themselves when it comes to extras. There are sixteen pages of historical information and photographs. Readers will find out more about internment camps in England, British money, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, wartime comic art by women, and more. All of this information is presented in a conversational tone, keeping readers’ attention even through this educational section.
Readers will need a basic understanding of the Holocaust and World War II to appreciate Lily Renée’s struggles, but the creators do a decent job of bringing another aspect of World War II history to graphic novel readers. Pair this with Eric Heuvel’s A Family Secret and The Search (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux), Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon’s Anne Frank: the Anne Frank House authorized graphic novel (Hill & Wang), and Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis’ Resistance and Defiance (First Second) for an exciting late elementary school, early middle school study of the Holocaust and World War II.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Lerner.