A Letter to Jo

Top Shelf. Jan. 2020. 144p. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094528.
Gr 9 Up–In this moving graphic novel, based on the real-life story of the author’s grandparents, high schoolers Leonard and Jo fall in love the same year that the United States enters World War II. Leonard is sent to the front lines, so he writes Josephine letters, but it isn’t until the end of combat is in sight that he gives her an uncensored accounting of the terrors he faced. In this “Letter to Jo,” Leonard’s experiences seep into Josephine’s world until it’s as if she is right there with him as he operates his machine gun, meets new friends as quickly as he loses them to German gunfire, and drops into despair as he tries to drink away the trauma of warfare. Sieracki effortlessly adapts his grandfather’s letters into a narrative that feels both intimate and sweeping, conveying the common experiences of World War II soldiers. Relying on a muddy palette, Williams captures the desolation of the battlefields and the bloodcurdling violence of government-sanctioned killing. But through it all, the love story conquers the darkness so hauntingly illustrated.
VERDICT Sieracki puts an incredibly personal face on history. A valuable addition to any graphic novel collections, and a strong supplement to curricula on World War II.

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