Writing books for children with the Holocaust as its central theme is not easy. So when someone seems to do that successfully, I take notice.

This new graphic novel about the Holocaust that is not by Art Spiegelman, is called Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer and was written by Trina Robbins. It tells the story of Lily Renee Wilheim, who fled Nazi Germany at age 14 on the kindertransport to England. She eventually reunited with her family in America and went on to have an illustrative career in the comic book industry.

There are a few reasons why I’m excited about this book (that I haven’t yet read but plan to) that I don’t even know where to begin. Of course, making something pretty with pictures is a great way to get reluctant readers interested in a tough subject. It’s also fitting, and of course intentional, that a graphic novel is the chosen medium  to tell the story of a comic book industry heroine.

According to Amazon.com reviewer Lori Katz, who goes by the name LibraryLady, World War II is one of the most requested non-fiction topics in a school library. Who knew? Not me. (I’m also writing a children’s book about my mother-in-law’s discovery of her American soldier hero, and their ultimate reunion, thanks to the powers of Google. I plan to test-drive it on my first-grader son).

Oh, and is Lily Renee stunning, both 60 years ago and today. Found both these photos of her on Women in Comics wiki. The additional biography about her in the wiki is pretty fascinating, like this little tidbit:

“She received a lot of fan mail from soldiers overseas (who all referred to her as “Mr. Renée”) and occasionally wrote back and sent sketches, as a token of her appreciation for them fighting Nazis.”

Lily Renee, 2010; photo: Jo Ann Toy