So The Faithful Spy: A True Story: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler cleared up my misconceptions of the famous German theologian and it delivered the information in a remarkable way---through a graphic (illustrated) biography written and illustrated by John Hendrix. however, unlike most graphic novels, this book is quite heavy in its text to illustration quotient. The illustrations were usually to make a point about what the text said, not to replace the text. And most speech wasn't delivered in text bubbles. I say this because it was decided that this book should be judged for a potential Cybils award in the JH/SH nonfiction category, not the graphic novel category.
|This page is more illustrated than most. Before Bonhoeffer became involved as a double agent spy, he tried to sway the German people to beware of Hitler and his special brand of hatred. His broadcast was cut off mid-program, probably by the Nazis. The bottom right corner shows Hitler delivering his hate-filled speeches, getting people all fired up with anger through his rhetoric and delivery method.|
On this page, more typical for the book, one big illustration makes two points about Hitler (He is an Omnipresent dictator and he liked to think of himself as a wolf, even encouraging others to call him Herr Wolf.)
On this page we find Dietrich and other conspirators waiting for news that the plane Hitler was on blew up from the bomb they placed on it. It didn't. Plot #1 was a dud.
So what is new about this book compared to others about Dietrich Bonhoeffer except that it was illustrated? Well, for one thing it is marketed to children and teens, not adults. As I read it I kept thinking that older teens or adults would get more out of it (or actually read it) compared to younger teens or children since it is so text-rich and full of complex issues. Elizabeth Bird, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, has this to say about that argument:
No doubt you will hear people argue about its age range. They will say that the book should never have been marketed to children and that due to the complexity of the ideas inside, to say nothing of the presence of Hitler himself, this should be purchased only for young adult collections. But to say that denies that children and middle-schoolers are capable of reading, comprehending, and processing moral complexity. Let’s put it another way. Few historical works for children will proffer the idea that all German Christians during WWII weren’t dyed-in-the-wool Nazis. In an era when nationalism is on the rise in countries across the globe, it is a great good to teach kids about a time when blind and displaced loyalty to a country led to unspeakable evil. Hendrix doesn’t have to spell out the parallels to the times in which we live. Have faith in the kids. They’re going to be able to get there on their own. The author is just laying the facts out before them. He trusts their intelligence. We, the adults, would be wise to do the same.
We should trust kids to "get it": to read and enjoy the book on one level, and to understand the meaning for today's children on another level. In the author's notes, Hendix said he wanted to do this book because he is afraid we have not all been permanently vaccinated against tyrants. He wonders, "how a majestic nation can willingly become a puppet for evil... and how quickly a good and noble people can become infatuated with hated." This is not just an issue for Germany of the past. Hendrix, a Christian himself, challenges his readers, no matter how young, to consider that sometimes our faith forces us to stand up in the face of this evil and speak out, or maybe even act out in opposition. Dietrich Bonhoeffer did this and it cost him his life. What is his legacy? It is an "unswerving belief in sacrificing for the good of 'the other', which is exactly the opposite of the Nazi ideology" (169).
I highly recommend this book even though Hendrix admits that he is an artist, not a historical researcher. It was a joy to read.
I read a print copy of The Faithful Spy from my public library.