Title: White Bird
Written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio
Published by Penguin Books
RRP: $39.99

I have heard so much about this graphic novel and was looking forward to reading it so much. Now, when this happens the books usually does not live up to the hype I create for it in my head. White Bird did however, and may have surpassed  my expectations! This graphic novel features Julian, from Palacio’s Wonder novels. While Face Timing his Grandmother for his humanities project, he asks about her life when she was a girl in France during World War 2. This conversation is the preamble for the narrative, telling of Julian’s Grandmother’s childhood living in Aubervilliers-aux-Bois, a small town in France. After the break out of the war they are thankful they do not live in the occupied zone. However as the war progresses and the Nazis infiltrate their town, young Sara and fellow Jews are increasingly singled out and banned from many activities. Sara is a kind-hearted young girl but like many her age, she is reluctant to stand up for the vulnerable ones, including the boy she sits next to in class, Julien. Julien suffered polio and as a result walks with crutches. Sara witnesses the bullying he endures without coming to his aid. Julien comes to Sara’s help, however, when the Jewish children are rounded up and taken from the school. He finds her in her hiding spot and sneaks her away through the town sewers. His family hide her in  the loft of a nearby barn, where she stays for more than a year. Julien and Sara become very close friends, however the ravages and awfulness of war is always so close and threatening.

This is such a beautifully presented, heart wrenching story. The panels throughout differ in size and framing as Palacio reverts, at times, to the past. Full page illustrations introduce each new chapter, without borders, and situates the narrative in time and place on the next page. The verbal text is sparse but influential. The book concludes with  an afterword by Ruth Franklin and author’s note. The comprehensive annotated and illustrated glossary includes all topics explored in the novel, offering further information for interested readers. There is also a suggested reading list, organisations and resources and a bibliography.

This graphic novel is an absolute must for all libraries. Middle school and young adult readers, along with adults, will get so much from this. A beautiful book in itself, hardcover and gorgeously bound, would make the perfect gift for young discerning readers.