Maus: a Survivor’s Tale


Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: (book 1) $9.49, 159 pages, Pantheon (1986)

(book 2) $9.49, 144 pages, Pantheon (1992)

Library Binding: (book 2) $23.47, 136 pages, Turtleback (1992)
(book 1) $22.91, 159 pages, Turtleback (1986)

25th Anniversay: $20.83, 295 pages, Pantheon (1996)

  • ISBN-10: 0679406417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679406419
  • ISBN-10: 0394747232
  • ISBN-13:978-0394747231
  • ISBN-10: 0808598538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0808598534
  • ISBN-10: 1417816422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1417816422
  • ISBN-10: 0679729771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679729778

9780394747231 — Paperback
9780679748403 — Paperback
9780808598534 — Glued Binding
9781435262355 — Glued Binding
9780606241816 — Glued Binding

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 4P

Readers Annotation

Vladek Spiegelman’s tale of survival in Nazi invaded Poland, Auschwitz and his life after.


This is the story of how Vladek Spiegelman survived Poland and Auschwitz during World War II. This is also a story of a son dealing with his father in his later years as he tries to write a book about his father’s story.

Vladek Spiegelman first tells of his time in Czestochowa before he met Art’s mother Anja and the woman he was seeing. He talks about their courtship and marriage. The couple moved to Sosnowiec to be by Anja’s family. Anja and Vladek have a son, but Anja suffers postpartum depression and the couple go to a sanitarium. When they return Vladek is drafted and then captured. He is put into a work camp where his smarts help him survive. He is released but then must sneak back to Sosnowiec across the border.

Sosnowiec soon falls prey to antisemitic feelings and the Spiegelman’s find themselves in the Ghetto. The family starts falling apart. First the grandparents are taken and never seen again. Then the children are sent off, and later die by poison. The family hides in many bunkers as the Ghetto keeps getting cleared out. Vladek works deals where he can to keep the family fed, until they are inevitably caught. Vladek’s father, sister and her children are separated. We learn they are killed. Anja and Vladek are separated from the rest of their family and run. They end up at a farm but move to a home and then back to the barn. They try to arrange an escape to Hungary, but their smugglers had set them up and they are sent to Auschwitz.

Vladek and Anja are split up, Vladek is in Auschwitz while Anja is in Birkenau. In Auschwitz, Vladek uses his smarts and knowledge of language to help him get in the good graces of a guard before he is turned into a tin worker. He talks about the people being chosen for the ovens, how they were starving, and how the Nazi’s kept food away from the prisoners. He recounts how near the end of it all he contracted Tuberculous and nearly died. He talks about disassembling the chimneys of Auschwitz and the uncertainty at the end of it all. The Nazi’s gathered those who were left and sent them on a train to be handed over, the uncertainty if they were to have survived the horrors of the camp only to be shot so close to the end, and their inevitable freedom. The book ends with Vladek and Anja reuniting and a drawing of their tombstones.

While Vladek is recounting his tale, we see his relationship with his son Art and his wife Mala. We learn that Anja had committed suicide, which had ruined both Vladek and Art. We see how eventually Mala leaves Vladek, Art struggling to complete Maus, and Vladek’s inevitable decline in health.


This was by far one of the best graphic novels I’ve read. It was moving, raw and visceral. The story that Vladek (and by extension Art) weave is terrifyingly real and mesmerizing. It is a unique first hand account of the horrors of the Holocaust told through the son of the man who lived it.

The plot of telling Vladek’s story can be disjointed at times, but Vladek’s story itself is cruelly vivid and put together.

Vladek is three dimensional in both his past and present (then) representations. We can see why he was the way he was during his ordeal and how that carried over into his life after. We see that Art has a hard time with his father and doesn’t really grasp the ordeal that he went through while he blames his father for his mother’s suicide. We see how frustrated Mala, Art and Francoise are by Vladek in his current form and how no one seems to be able to deal with what he’s become.

I admit I felt this story deeply and may have shed a tear at the end of it all. I also felt anger towards Art’s treatment of his father through most of the story. I get that his father was frustrating, but after such a horrible trial wouldn’t anyone come out slightly broken? And to keep asking about it just didn’t sit right.

This definitely works for its audience (Young Adults and Adults). Its a good intro into the Holocaust while not being overly graphic and tells a first had account. It is easily accessible and would not be hard to convince young adults to try.

I couldn’t pick a better title if I tried.

I don’t know if there’s a better title to fit into the spot that Maus has. Its one of a kind. While there are other titles in Graphic Novels and Historical or Biography, none of them deal with the Holocaust like Maus. I’d say this could potentially take the place of another biography of a holocaust survivor.

As for flaws, perhaps just the way that Vladek is depicted in his future self.


Historical Graphic Novel, Biography


Auschwitz by Miklos Nyiszli

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Boxer by Reinhard Kleist


The first graphic novel to get a Pulitzer. A black and white biography told by the son of the man who went through these experiences. A unique and horrifying story of a holocaust survivor.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about Art’s treatment of his father and his story?

What part stuck with you?

How is Vladek’s experience different from other stories of the Holocaust that you’ve read?

Was the medium appropriate for the subject matter?

Author’s website

Art Spiegelman’s Facebook


1992 Pulitzer Prize, Eisner Award (1992), Time’s Top 10 Graphic Novels, All-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books, American Book Awards (1992), Harvey Award (1992)


Kirkus (book 2)


Why I Chose It

Maus is a classic graphic novel. Its a biography about the author’s father’s experience in the holocaust. It won a Pulitzer Prize. Its a graphic novel everyone should read.

Other Information


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