This is the story of one refugee family’s harrowing journey, based on author Cary Fagan’s own family history. The graphic novel follows a young Jewish boy, Maurice, and his family as they flee their home in Belgium during the Second World War. They travel by train to Paris, through Spain to Portugal, and finally across the ocean to Jamaica, where they settle in an internment camp.
All the while, Maurice is intent on continuing his education and growing up to be a lawyer. He overcomes obstacles to find a professor to study with, works toward a high school diploma while in the camp, and is ultimately accepted to university in Canada. His English dictionary becomes a beloved tool and beacon of hope through the danger and turmoil of the family’s migration.
Moments of lightness and humor balance the darkness in this powerful story of one refugee family’s courage and resilience, and of the dictionary that came to represent their freedom.
CARY FAGAN is an award-winning author for children and adults. In 2014 Cary was awarded the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People for his body of work. Cary was born and raised in Toronto, where he lives with his family.
ENZO LORD MARIANO is an illustrator and musician living in Montreal, Quebec. He discovered the magic of illustration when he was a child, and was bitten by the music bug as a teenager. He doesn’t leave the house without a pencil in his pocket and a mandolin strapped to his back.
"Based on Fagan’s grandfather’s experiences, the anecdotal-feeling narration straightforwardly conveys the family’s fear, uncertainty, determination, and love."
"This powerful historical graphic retelling... grabs the attention and hearts of the readers."
"There is a delicate balance between realistically depicting the worst of human nature and emphasizing people’s ability to adapt and survive...?Maurice and His Dictionary is highly recommended."
"The graphic-novel format is well suited to this emotionally layered survivor’s account... Expertly paced panels simultaneously convey the gripping, close-up immediacy of the family’s experiences."
"An important story, well told and depicted."
"A little bit of luck, the kindness of strangers, and a teenage boy’s perseverance drive this elegant story set during the Holocaust... Maurice’s journey teaches readers to never give up."
"An especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections."
"[The] narrative emphasizes hope amid ceaseless uncertainty, with small acts of kindness... Succinct and sincere; another accessible middle grade window into World War II."
"A moving account in which a child’s thirst for knowledge is a source of hope against a dismal, war-torn backdrop... the book also maintains the humor and joy that come from a strong, caring support system."