2014 marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France which marked the beginning of the end for World War II in Europe, and refocused the historical spotlight on this key event in Western history. With this short graphic novel, part of a larger Heinemann Library set of 24-Hour History graphic novels, Angnieszka Bishop offers an introduction to D-Day for students in upper elementary grades.
D-Day: June 6, 1944 is a well-told story of the determination and sacrifice that the invasion of Normandy required of the Allied troops. The novel is formatted to provide students with an overview of the events of the invasion of Normandy. In addition to the graphic storyline, the author includes blocks of prose within the text to provide additional information, a prose summary of the events in Europe after D-Day leading to the end of the war, an appendix with a cast of characters highlighting key figures on both sides of the conflict, a timeline of events, and a suggested bibliography of additional resources. Within the story, time-stamps are used to indicate how quickly events unfolded; Bishop paces her story to flow quickly as the invasion happens, covering the key events of the battle in a very short text. Bishop does an excellent job of highlighting the allied nature of the invasion, pointing out that the actions of all groups—American, British, and Canadian forces—were necessary and vital for the success of the mission.
The art of D-Day is unremarkable and does not capture the reader’s interest. The primary colors here are the greens and greys of military uniforms, with browns and blacks of equipment and the blue/grey of the English Channel. One color seems notably absent: red. For a war graphic novel, especially one focused on an event like D-Day, there is a remarkable lack of blood. Obviously, the intended audience is elementary-aged children and age-appropriateness is important, but this highly sanitized and clean depiction of the events of the day seems to diminish the true heroism of the men who fought in horrifying conditions and against impossible odds. War should never seem like a walk on the beach and, even though the text does discuss casualties, the images do not reinforce those textual statements. Another artistic concern is the lack of details. Faces of soldiers are vague, with no sense of individualism or personality. Only commanding officers, like Eisenhower, Bradley, and Rommel, are given detailed appearances. The addition of more personalized faces might make these events more realistic for young readers, rather than something more detached or observational.
Despite its flaws, D-Day: June 6, 1944 is a solid historical introduction to this pivotal event. It does presuppose some basic knowledge of the World War II, making it useful perhaps to supplement a teaching unit on the War. Other likely readers include young fans of military history or history as a whole, as well as parents and teachers seeking to introduce these events to children.
24-Hour History: D-Day, June 6, 1944
by Agnieszka Bishop
Publisher Age Rating: 8-10