A Bag of Marbles

The Graphic Novel

  • Interest Level: Grade 7 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 7

In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family’s safety, the boys’ parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone.

Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. And if they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish.

The boys travel by train, by ferry, and on foot, facing threats from strangers and receiving help from unexpected quarters. Along the way they must adapt to the unfamiliar world beyond their city—and find a way to be true to themselves even as they conceal their identities.

Based on an autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo and adapted with the author’s input, this true story offers a harrowing but inspiring glimpse of a childhood cut short.

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Interest Level Grade 7 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 7
Genre Graphic Novels, Social Studies, Young Adult
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Copyright 2013
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Graphic Universe ™
Language English
Number of Pages 128
Publication Date 2013-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 3.3
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN012000, YAN025090, YAN047080
Dewey 741.5'944
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 7.75 x 10.25
Lexile 390
ATOS Reading Level 2.8
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 159615
Accelerated Reader® Points 1.0
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Foreword, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author: Joseph Joffo

Joseph Joffo was born in Paris in 1931. He is the author of several books, but he is best known for his memoir A Bag of Marbles, published in 1973. It has been translated into eighteen languages, and in 1975 it was adapted to film. Like many of Joffo's books, A Bag of Marbles was based on his life story. After the war Joseph, his mother, and his brothers returned safely to Paris. His father died in a concentration camp.

Illustrator: Vincent Bailly


  • USBBY Outstanding International Books List, Winner, 2015
  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon, Winner, 2014
  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee, Nominated, 2014
  • Cream of the Crop for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Winner, 2013
  • ACL Distinguished Book, Winner, 2013


The Horn Book Magazine

“The book’s relatively busy layout is balanced by Bailly’s gorgeously detailed illustrations…[A] welcome addition to the rich Holocaust literary canon.” —The Horn Book Magazine

Publishers Weekly

“[M]arvelously conceived and executed….Not to be missed.” —starred, Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“Readers can pretend this is an awfully big adventure, and they’ll keep flipping pages.” —Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal

“Bailly’s painterly artwork is well suited to the compelling, well-told narrative….It’s a welcome addition to graphic-novel collections.” —School Library Journal