Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer

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9780761360100: Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
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In 1938, Lily Renée Wilheim is a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily's life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily's journey. She must escape many more times--from servitude, hardship, and danger. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis? Follow the story of a brave girl who becomes an artist of heroes and a true pioneer in comic books.

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About the Author:

Writer and feminist herstorian Trina Robbins has been writing books, comics, and graphic novels for over 30 years. Her most recent books are The Brinkley Girls (Fantagraphics) and Forbidden City: the Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (Hampton Press). Her newest graphic novel is the three-part YA series Chicagoland Detective Agency for Graphic Universe(tm).

Review:

"When the Nazis march into Austria in 1938, Lily Renee's life changes forever. Although the Kindertransport allows Lily to escape the persecution she faces as a Jew living in Vienna, it means she must leave her parents and travel to England alone. As she embarks on this journey, she continues to face tremendous hardship and is repeatedly treated as an outsider. From being made a servant to taking a job as a nurse's assistant, Lily faces danger again and again until she is finally reunited with her parents in New York City. Inspired by everything she had to overcome, Lily grows up to illustrate comic books filled with powerful women, using her art to pursue her own kind of revenge against the Nazis. Effectively using a graphic novel format to tell a moving historical story, Lily Renee, Escape Artist puts a face to a brave teenager who survives tremendous tragedy to emerge a comic book pioneer. Although at times the simplistic narrative and colorful illustrations limit the poignancy of Lily's experience during a horrifying time in history, the positive message and historical detail make this graphic narrative a valuable resource that will appeal to young readers. Furthermore, the text also provides an extended appendix detailing some of the story’s unique cultural and historic influences. A distinctive and useful visual portrayal of an inspirational true story, this graphic novel offers a great deal as an educational tool." --VOYA

(Journal)

"Lily Renée Wilhelm was fourteen in 1938, a Jewish girl from a privileged Vienna home whose world was about to be turned upside down by the war. In this graphic biography, Robbins, Timmons, and Oh bring her vividly to life, describing her budding talent as an artist and her trips to the ballet and opera. With her father at the helm of the Holland America Steamship Company, money was clearly not an issue―until the Nazis drove their tanks into town. After Kristallnacht, Lily's parents asked the family of Lily's pen pal, Molly, to sponsor their daughter to move to England. In 1939, Lily's escape from Austria on the Kindertransport likely saved her life. We know about the concentration camps, the death camps and the hardships of the Holocaust. Lily Renee, Escape Artist does not revisit these subjects. Instead, it shows us how Lily's life changed in England. Treated with disdain by her friend's mother, she was expected to do the work of a domestic servant and was denied sufficient food. Her misery was exacerbated by the fact that she could barely speak English at the time. She tried hard to find sponsors for her parents so they, too, could escape Austria. Instead of assistance, she was offered "more tea." Fed up with her sponsors, Lily left the house, moved to the countryside and became a nanny. Later she worked as a nurses' assistant. At one point, she was classified as an enemy alien. Ultimately, she was reunited with her parents in America where she found work creating a comic book series with women as the central protagonists. She built a successful life for herself and her family and lived happily ever after. This is a book about determination, hardship, and overcoming adversity. There aren't many Holocaust-themed books that have a happy ending, which makes this one all the more pleasurable to read." --Jewish Book World

(Magazine)

"Renowned comics historian Robbins pens this biography of Lily Renée, an artist who was one of only a few women to work in the comic book industry in the 1940s. Raised in a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Renée escaped to England from Nazi-occupied Austria when she was 14 years old. Most of the book recounts Renée's time in England as she's turned into an unpaid servant by her host family, works as a nanny and nurse's assistant, and endures the blitz. When she is finally able to join her parents in the United States, she uses her drawing skills to find work, eventually landing in comics and drawing pulp comics featuring bold, beautiful heroines. The story is told in a less than dramatic fashion, however. More space is given to Renée attempting to mop a kitchen floor than finding shelter during the blitz and being witness to its aftermath, for example. Characters' expressions and body language are kept simple. Extras include a German glossary, a brief history of the time in which Renée's story takes place, explanations of period details, and photographs of Renée and her family, which provide needed real-world texture." --Publishers Weekly

(Journal)

"This graphic biography, illustrated in a retro comic book style that befits its subject, describes the life of Lily Renée Wilheim, a Jewish Kindertransport refugee who became a graphic artist of superwomen comic books in New York. Raised in a well-off family in Vienna in the '30s, Lily saw her idyllic childhood descend into one of prejudice, tragedy, Kristallnacht and, finally, escape. This is a smart little biography that will appeal to history buffs, comic book fans and anyone who likes a gutsy, pioneering heroine." --The New York Times Book Review

(Newspaper)

"Lily Renée Wilheim, born and raised in a secular Jewish family in Austria between World Wars, was just young enough to find sanctuary in the Kindertransport arranged with England in 1939. After an unhappy period spent with the family of her girlhood pen pal, she found work as a domestic and was able to join her parents in the U.S. after the war. There she found employment as a cartoonist, working on such projects as the Nazi-fighting Señorita Rio. Throughout, Lily Renée is presented as a girl with understandable concerns for both her physical and emotional safety, and in relatively few pages, readers learn about aspects of postwar life including how displaced persons found work. Timmons and Oh's brightly colored art is well detailed, showing period dress and scenes in all three countries. Back matter fleshes out historical context, such as how women became the heroines in many wartime comics. With this graphic biography, Robbins, who has worked hard to bring attention to women cartoonists, offers a Holocaust survivor story that few will find familiar." --Booklist

(Journal)

"Like the comic books that Lily Renée Wilheim drew in the 1940s as a pioneer woman in a male-dominated industry, this biography is a tale of peril and suspense. Lily, an affluent Austrian Jewish girl, was one of the last children to be transported safely to England in 1939. After a few years with a sponsor family, she got a series of jobs caring for children and in a maternity hospital. After England entered the war, she lost contact with her parents and was later classified as an enemy alien. The tale of her reconciliation with her family in America and subsequent success as a graphic artist is classically upbeat. The book is drawn in a style that seems to imitate Wilheim's wartime comics–gestures and expressions are stylized and formal; characters stand or move stiffly. Think Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter. Add to this drawing style a tendency toward melodrama and few named characters except the subject and this book might be a tough sell. Improving its odds is back matter that includes a gallery of photographs of the charismatic Lily and brief essays on subjects as diverse as the British monetary system and the Automat." --School Library Journal

(Journal)

"This comic-book biography of a Jewish girl's life under the Nazi jackboot and then as a refugee is low key and that much more profound for it. The panels are brightly lit, and the narrative is crisp, both of which serve to chillingly amplify the everyday banality of evil. Robbins fashions Lily Renée Wilhelm as a young woman who simply must make the best of being shuttled from home to home as a Kindertransport refugee in England, thankful for the kindnesses while cognizant of the inequities, hopeful but not delusional. Her parents, still in Austria, haven't vanished, but they are thwarted at every turn. Bile rises, teeth clench―it is all so quotidian. Lily toils in this and that occupation, and then comes the wholly satisfying conclusion: Lily becomes a graphic artist of superwomen stories in the United States, so fitting that it closes her tale like the thunk of a Rolls Royce door. Robbins adds a glossary and a number of short, expository pages on concentration camps, internment camps, high tea, English currency, Queen Wilhelmina, the Holland-America Line and Horn and Hardart automats to flesh out Lily's life. A fitting tribute." --Kirkus Reviews

(Journal)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780761381143: Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer

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ISBN 10:  0761381147 ISBN 13:  9780761381143
Publisher: Graphic Universe, 2011
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