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Review: Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I

Though it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in school, I don’t think I’m stretching things by saying that World War I is rushed through in history class. That’s one of the reasons I so enjoyed Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood. I basically learned that there was a huge war with no clear cause. Of course, most students will learn that the murder of Archduke Ferdinand was the spark that set the war in motion. But if readers pick up Henrik Rehr’s Terrorist, they’ll gain an insight into Gavrilo Princip, the man who set everything in motion.

Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, The Assassin Who Ignited World War I
By Henrik Rehr. Illustrator
Lerner Books. 2015. ISBN 9781467772792
HC, $33.32. 232pp.
Grades 9 and up

terroristThough the telling of this story is fictionalized, it’s obvious that the author/artist took great pains in his research. Rehr goes back to Gavrilo Princip’s childhood, growing up in a Serbian village under Austria-Hungary rule. Readers then follow Princip to school, where his strong sense of national pride is easily radicalized. There he gets involved in the secret society known as the “Black Hand,” and where the attack on the Archduke is planned. We see a glimpse of Princip’s love life, and the story juxtaposes this with the palace of the Archduke—where matters seem much lighter and not quite as intense.

While the assassination didn’t go exactly as planned, ultimately, Gavrilo Princip was successful in his mission, which was what the led Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia. One thing led to another and we had one of the bloodiest wars in history on our hands.

The black and white illustrations are striking and help set the dark mood of the story. The retelling, though fictionalized, uses details from court transcripts and letters.

Though Lerner Books’ target audience is generally a school age audience, this graphic novel does feel better suited for adults. Teenagers could understand and digest the story, but a classroom setting might be more beneficial for this title. Ultimately, if this isn’t assigned, will teens want to read this of their own volition? If they love history, they will.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Lerner Books.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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