If you like graphic novels in the tradition of Maus by Art Spiegelman or Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, you’ll enjoy this graphic memoir by Michael Kupperman, an award-winning writer and artist. I am a big fan of graphic novels; even if you aren’t, you still might enjoy reading this one, for a number of reasons.
First, it is a powerful father-son story. The author tries to reconstruct long-buried parts of the life of his once world-famous father. Joel Kupperman became one of the most famous children in America during World War II as one of the young geniuses on the series Quiz Kids. He had a childhood in the public eye, but then essentially disappeared into a reclusive life and never talked about the experience again. Because Mr. Kupperman, the father, is now struggling with dementia, there is a certain urgency about the son’s desire to unearth the details about this part of his father’s past.
The memoir also provides details about a very interesting time in radio and television history, and this was fascinating to me as well. There was still a great deal of anti-Semitism in the entertainment business at the time; Kupperman’s father, an endearing and brilliant young Jewish boy, was (perhaps unwittingly) propagandized to combat that prejudice in the industry and in the country. The reasons for his father’s transformation from a “happy know-it-all prodigy” to a reclusive adult academic are wrapped up in this bit of history.
Finally, the book is engaging because Kupperman is a talented artist. I love how his images for this story reinforce the feeling that his father, now disappearing into dementia, was also a shadowy figure to him throughout his life.
The book has received all kinds of accolades. It was given “Best Book” nods in 2018 by NPR, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and the New York Public Library. It was also a winner of the Publishers Weekly 2018 Graphic Novel Critics Poll. If you’ve always wanted to try a graphic novel, this would be a great one to start with.
Review by Lesley Dolinger, Library Director.
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