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  New York Times Review

FOR A MAN ACCURSED BY HISTORY, Adolf Hitler led a grimly charmed life. He survived several well-planned assassination attempts through sheer luck. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a double agent claiming to spy for Hitler's Reich, was actually involved in the resistance movement that planned a few of these plots. John Hendrix's graphic biography, the faithful spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler (Amulet, 176 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up), intertwines two stories: the insidious rise of Hitler with his creed of hatred and Bonhoeffer's development as an ethical thinker who believed that radical action was necessary, but that killing was a sin. Hendrix writes, "the conspirators needed to find a place where God would forgive them for plotting an assassination." For young readers, one could easily play the near-miss attempts to kill Hitler as a straightforward thriller. The plots involve deception, gut-wrenching timing and concealed explosives: a bomb in a gift package, a rigged docent conducting a tour of captured Russian weaponry and an explosive briefcase spirited into the heart of Hitler's fortress, the Wolfsschanze. But Hendrix makes the bold and surprising decision to tell it as a tale of faith. He records Bonhoeffer's powerful experiences, for example, at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where the preacher Adam Clayton Powell fulminates: "Obeying God means challenging injustice! You don't just think about God. ... You act!" Some readers will be irked by the focus on God in historical nonfiction; others will be soothed by it. Certainly, Hendrix's implication that at Bonhoeffer's execution, he met his God is more emotionally powerful than strictly verifiable. In an author's note, Hendrix offers a passionate defense of presenting the story through the lens of Bonhoeffer's Christianity: "If we look for a motivation for his decisions outside his furious belief in God's certainty, we will miss the very lesson he offers. " What will catch the reader's eye immediately is Hendrix's striking three-color art. The book is not a panel-by-panel graphic novel, but rather an inventive combination of text blocks and illustration. Each spread has its own ingenious design, shuttling between the literal and the allegorical: As the text talks about Hitler undermining the power of President Hindenburg and the Reichstag ("teetering like a German spruce"), the illustration shows the Führer literally hacking down the tree of state, a startled German imperial eagle taking flight. Hitler is often drawn as a ravening wolf. Bonhoeffer faces off against the Nazis like David against Goliath. As Bonhoeffer chides those who don't rouse themselves, "If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction," the illustration shows a Nazi train plunging off a crumbling bridge as a figure sprints along the roofs, trying to avoid destruction - an evocative image, given the dark significance trains would acquire in the Reich. Even in more reportorial illustrations, Hendrix makes the most of his three-color medium, adding a demonic red glint to Hitler's eyes or forcing text to strobe like an old 3-D color offset; as we wait to hear about a phone call that might announce Hitler's death, the caller (in cyan) and the phone and switchboard (in magenta) are both rendered translucent, an unsettling effect, soul and object nervously divorced. The graphic flexibility also gives Heñdrix the opportunity to use maps to explain Hitler's military strategy: the feint that toppled France, for example, or Hitler's plans to annex Austria and Czechoslovakia. A recurring "Conquest Map" marks Hitler's terrifying progress (though it is unfortunately somewhat inaccurate - eastern Poland was occupied by the Soviets, not the Germans, in 1939-41). Occasionally, episodes could have benefited from being dramatically staged in graphic novel panels, rather than being relegated to a text box - when the assassination attempts fail, for example, or Bonhoeffer is finally arrested at his home. But the moral battles here are more important than the physical ones: "Faith, without action, is no faith at all. Love, without sacrifice, is no love at all." ?. T. ANDERSON is the author of books for young readers including "Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad."

  Publishers Weekly Review

Hendrix (Miracle Man) captures the powerful and purposeful life of the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose faith and philosophy eventually led him to take a stand against Hitler when few others in Germany would. Using a variety of art styles, the book highlights Bonhoeffer's intellectual, spiritual, and personal development alongside the cultural and political shifts behind Hitler's rise to power. It also shows Bonhoeffer's struggle to question his country's leader and his work to become more than mere witness to history-his writings, his work as "chief pastor to the conspiracy"-before his eventual capture and hanging. Hendrix details Bonhoeffer's life in accessible prose, offering appropriate, meaningful context and in places using Bonhoeffer's own words. Provocative background imagery enhances the comic's mood and atmosphere: a noose wrapped around a church shows religious strangulation in Hitler's Germany; prose shown on the moonlit wall of Bonhoeffer's prison cell conveys imprisonment's isolation. These visuals powerfully communicate the dread, despair, and violence inherent in living-and fighting against-Hitler's Germany. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Combining drawings and text, Hendrix presents a contemplative look at German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Readers learn of Bonhoeffer's lifelong interest in theology and his search for God. As Hitler and Nazism came to power, he asked whether it is moral to assassinate a tyrant. Ultimately, his decision to plot with other conspirators to kill Hitler cost him his life. The author provides a fascinating examination of the man and his commitment to his Christian faith. The narrative deftly moves between Bonhoeffer's struggles and Hitler's ascent. Hendrix's dynamic images complement the text, using green and red to indicate good and evil. The dense text may turn off some readers, but the illustrations are bound to entice many others. Those seeking a more traditional biography should also look to Patricia McCormick's The Plot To Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero. -VERDICT The bold visuals will attract graphic novel fans. An excellent introduction to a great man and his fight for justice.-Margaret Nunes, -Gwinnett County Public Library, GA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
A 2018 Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Winner! <br> <br> Adolf Hitler's Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party's evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!<br> <br> In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.
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