Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lily Renee, Escape Artist

Lily Renee, Escape Artist

Trina Robbins
Illustrator:  Anne Timmons , Mo Oh 
Historical Fiction Graphic Novel
For ages 8 to 10
Lerner, 2011   ISBN: 978-0761381143

Growing up in Vienna, Lily Renne Wilheim had a very comfortable life. Her parents were “well off” and they were able to take their daughter to the opera and the ballet, and sent her to dancing classes and art school. Then on March 12, 1938 the Nazi army invaded Austria and Lily’s world changed.

Soon the Nazi anti-Jewish policies were affecting Jewish families all over the city, including Lily’s. Her parents were forced to give up their radio, they had to take displaced Jewish refugees into their home, Lily could no longer go to school, and she and her family members were persecuted.

Eager to get their daughter out of Vienna, Lily’s parents arranged for her to be taken to England on the Kindertransport. In this program, Jewish adults accompanied Jewish children to England where they were looked after by sponsors. Lily had a pen pal called Molly who lived near Leeds and whose parents agreed to be Lily’s sponsors. After a grueling journey, Lily arrived at Molly’s home only to be treated like a servant. She was expected to do domestic work and was not properly fed. After a time, Lily decided that she was better off on her own and she left Molly’s house and went to London. Here Lily found work as a companion, a child minder, and then a nurse’s aid. While she worked, Lily kept on hoping that she would hear from her parents. She had no idea if they were dead or alive.

This powerful graphic novel tells the story of Lily Renee, an Austrian Jewess who, after years of deprivation and suffering, found sanctuary in America during World War II. Lily went on to become a well known comic book artist. Told mostly in third person, but also using speech bubbles, this gripping graphic novel will give young readers a sense of what it was like to be a Jew in Europe in the years leading up to, and during, World War II.

A section at the back of the book provides further information about the concentration camps, the British internment camps, high tea, British money, Neville Chamberlin, Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina, and other topics that are mentioned in the story. There is also a photo album showing Lily Renee and her family.