cover image It’s My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II

It’s My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II

Susan Wider. Norton Young Readers, $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-324-01545-1

Wider’s harrowing debut chronicles Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon’s (1917–1943) life from early childhood to her death in Auschwitz. The volume initially portrays Salomon as one of the few Jewish students at a prominent art school in Berlin, then traces her father and stepmother’s sending her to live with her grandparents in 1939 southern France to escape Nazi persecution. There, she struggles to navigate her grandparents’ respective declining health and the Nazis’ ever-expanding presence across the continent. She also flourishes artistically and, in 1942, finishes what would become her career’s defining work: Life? or Theater?, a painted memoir comprising 769 individual paintings detailing her challenges with depression, love, and her family’s history of suicide. A year later, Nazi forces invade France and send Salomon and fellow Jews to Auschwitz, where she, pregnant, eventually dies. B&w photographs and Salomon’s bold gouache paintings feature throughout, providing a uniquely artistic interpretation of, and profound insight into, pivotal moments in Salomon’s life, including her mother’s suicide and her unrequited love for her stepmother’s voice tutor. Wider effortlessly blends vibrant art and little-known history for a winning visual read. The Salomons’ family tree, a timeline, and more conclude. Ages 13–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Aug.)