The best graphic novels about Jewish themes

Who am I?

My love of comics and characters goes back to when I was very young. I remember falling in love with Snoopy to the point that I would draw a snoopy head on my worksheets in first grade, and my teacher knew it was from me! Once I got older, and began exploring my Jewish heritage in a more mature way, I was astounded by how many deep and meaningful stories I kept encountering. It was my natural inclination to retell these stories in a comic book format. Part of my mission was to find like minded souls who had a love for comix and a love for Jewish stories.

I wrote...

The Book of Secrets

By Mat Tonti,

Book cover of The Book of Secrets

What is my book about?

When a strange book of stories arrives from their beloved missing grandparents, siblings Ben and Rose must dive into the book for clues that will help them in their search for their grandparents. But they are not the only ones searching... Who is the strange creature called the Doughlem who shows up in each of the stories? What other dark forces find the book to be so important? And as more and more characters from the book start showing up in real life, Ben and Rose start to wonder if the book is coming to life, or if they are getting lost in the story.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Golem's Mighty Swing

Why did I love this book?

This book was the first time I read a graphic novel with Jewish themes other than the Holocaust. As a comic book artist who was exploring my Jewish roots, it was eye-opening to read a tale with Jewish characters, especially because it deals with the legend of the Golem, a mystical being made of mud and brought to life through Hebrew incantations.  Add to that great action scenes of 1920s baseball, and it makes for a great read.

By James Sturm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Golem's Mighty Swing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before penning his acclaimed graphic novel Market Day and founding the Center for Cartoon Studies, James Sturm proved his worth as a master cartoonist with the eloquent graphic novel, The Golem s Mighty Swing, one of the first breakout graphic novel hits of the 21st century. Sturm s fascination with the invisible America has been the crux of his comics work, exploring the rarely-told or oft-forgotten bits of history that define a country. By reuniting America s greatest pastime with its hidden history, the graphic novel tells the story of the Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team of…

A Contract With God

By Will Eisner,

Book cover of A Contract With God

Why did I love this book?

Will Eisner not only invented the term “Graphic Novel” but he innovated much of the art and craft of comix. He is one of the pioneers whom I have studied to learn how comix work. Contract is also amazing because it deals with Jewish New York of the mid 20th century which is where my parents grew up. I connect to the tales of how to balance being American while celebrating my Jewish heritage, and the many challenges that came with living amongst other cultures in the “Melting Pot."

By Will Eisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Contract With God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

€œEisner was not only ahead of his times; the present times are still catching up to him.€€”John UpdikeA revolutionary novel, A Contract with God re-creates the neighborhood of Will Eisner's youth through a quartet of four interwoven stories. Expressing the joy, exuberance, tragedy, and drama of life on the mythical Dropsie Avenue of the Bronx, A Contract with God is a monumental achievement, a must in the library of any graphic novel fan.

Book cover of Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

Why did I love this book?

In another life, I believe I was a traveling Klezmer musician. I’m not sure why I am not today, but such is how it is. In any case, this book translates the life and energy of Klezmer music into a fun and whimsical tale of a young klezmer musician. Great pacing and fun dialogue keep the story moving. And there’s something about European comics that is a bit more wild and fanciful than American comics.

By Joann Sfar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Klezmer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Megillat Esther

By JT Waldman,

Book cover of Megillat Esther

Why did I love this book?

I came across this book while JT was still working on it in the early 2000s. I contacted him much much excitement because I had never met any other contemporary artists who were interested in translating traditional Jewish legends and midrash into a visual form. When it was finally published, I was blown away at how visually rich it was and how it incorporated the traditional Hebrew text of the Scroll of Esther. And it’s not for kids! A true telling of the story of Esther deserves an R-rating at least. And JT does not shy away from the grittier elements of the traditional story.

By JT Waldman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Megillat Esther as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Megillat Esther is commonly referred to as the Book of Esther: but there is nothing common about JT Waldman's interpretation of this Biblical story. In what may be the world's first religious, scholarly comic book, Waldman tells the epic tale of exile and redemption in graphic form.

When Esther, a Jewish woman, is made Queen of Persia she must keep her identity hidden, all the while maneuvering to save her people from annihilation. This is a story familiar to many Jews who have heard it recounted every year on the holiday of Purim. But readers of all backgrounds will be…

Book cover of The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Why did I love this book?

I recommend Maus, for so many reasons. It is important on so many levels, including the fact that it was recently banned. Yes, it’s a primary text on the horrors of the Holocaust. Yes, it was the first comic to win a Pulitzer Prize. But I come back again and again to this work because Art is a master of the language of comics. Any comic book maker of any background is indebted to him for pushing the boundaries of what it means to make a panel on a page, and use it to tell a story.  

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Complete Maus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, MAUS is a brutally moving work of art about a Holocaust survivor -- and the son who survives him

'The first masterpiece in comic book history' The New Yorker

Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Approaching the unspeakable through the diminutive (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father.

Against the backdrop…

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