A graphic novel by Johann G. Louis and Susie Morgenstern
Sometimes when I read dark, depressing, or sad books I like to somewhat recharge with a lighter book of some sort. For this week, Little Sister by Johann G. Louis and Susie Morgenstern fit the bill perfectly. Drawn in a whimsical, almost twee way, the book is definitely not as heavy as some other European comics I’ve read, but it keeps the same charm. The book tells the story of the life of popular French children’s author Susie Morgenstern, especially her upbringing in Newark New Jersey. Later on she would move to Israel, then France, but that’s outside of the scope of this book. While it’s not a huge story about an adventure far away, or an action thriller, the story talks about the life events that can truly shape somebody. We see the girls go through some things like the death of their grandfather, combatting neighborhood gossip and bigotry, and even small issues like burning food.
“Susie has two older sisters: the vivacious Effie, and the elegant Sandra. Life is hard when you’re the baby of the family! No one ever lets you do anything. No one ever pays any attention to you. Everyone makes fun of you. Bestselling children’s author Susie Morgenstern takes readers back to 1950s Newark and all the everyday charms and heartbreaks of the year she turned ten: spelling bees, synagogue, Christmas lights, Halloween candy, nights out at the movies, sneaking fast food. In his joyous art, Johann G. Louis lovingly evokes the era and a young girl awakening to life.”
One of the more interesting and heartwarming sections was an vignette where the family’s cousins from Germany come over to stay. The girls don’t realize it, but they are refugees from The Holocaust, and with only a few years separating that event and their present lives, they are not exactly a cheerful couple. Susie’s interactions with Chaim and Rivka go from being “gossipy” to genuine love as Rivka is able to almost feel like she has her own children back. It’s never fully said, but it’s implied theirs died in one of the camps. Susie has to come to terms with her Jewish heritage a few times during the story, including an episode where a neighborhood bully attacks her, saying she was “a dirty Jew”. This was likely her first time experiencing bigotry of any sort, and it upsets her greatly.
This was an interesting memoir of a young girl living in what had to be a tumultuous time for a young Jewish girl. The story has glimpses of sheer awfulness in humanity, but it stays positive and shows that it’s better to try to be happy, no matter what life throws at you. Yeah, your older sisters may try to toss you out a window, but it’s better not to dwell on it! The artwork is great, drawn like a children’s book or Sunday Newspaper comic, and the writing is great. Europe Comics has once again chosen a book that stands out as a piece of artwork in a cluttered market of superhero books.
NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.