Guest Graphic Novel Review: White Bird by R.J. Palacio

White Bird by R.J. Palacio. Random House, 2019. 9780525645535. 220 pp

Wonder is a multiple award-winning children’s book, the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a young guy with facial deformities who has to deal with bullies in his junior high after he stops being home schooled. The biggest bully at Beecher Prep is Julian who receives the most extreme punishment for the way he treats Auggie.
White Bird a sequel of sorts, or at least a related book — it’s a graphic novel told from Julian’s point of view when he Skypes his grandmother Sara (whom he affectionately calls “Grandmere”) for a Humanities project. Grandmere tells him about growing up in an affluent home in Germany where father was a well-respected surgeon and her mother was a math teacher. She was their only child and admittedly a little spoiled. Life was good until Nazis started raiding Jewish homes, schools, and businesses. Her mother was taken to a camp in Auschwitz. She didn’t and doesn’t know know what happened to her father. Grandmere’s school was raided but she was able to escape with the help of a social outcast, Julien, who hid her in his family’s barn. His parents hid her in the hayloft while the raids continued. She lived there for over a year until Germany surrendered. 
The white bird of the story is a dove that represents peace and freedom. Julien’s Grandmere reflects on how her father referred to her as a bird when she was younger, and as he threw her into the air. The imagery plays into the end of the story, too, after she hangs up the phone, picks up the newspaper, and sees a headline about the US border patrol.
This is a beautifully inked graphic novel, a haunting and powerful story of the Holocaust. Palacio is a brilliant artist and storyteller.
Thanks to Murphy’s Mom for this guest review.

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