In Hidden, Elsa wakes up in the middle of the night to find her grandmother, Dounia, downstairs, upset about a bad dream.
Elsa tells her grandmother that she will feel better if she talks about her bad dream, and Dounia decides to tell Elsa about her own childhood as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Paris at the end of WWII.
The story then flashes back and follows a young Dounia as her family struggles to stay safe from Nazi sympathizers who are pushing Jews out of France.
When the police come to Dounia’s apartment, her parents hide her but are ultimately taken to a concentration camp. Dounia is rescued by a neighbor, but the police – and sympathizers — are still looking for her.
Dounia is hidden away by a series of neighbors and friends, and ultimately manages to stay safe living on a farm. Eventually Dounia finds her way back to her mother, only to discover that her father did not survive.
The story alternates between Dounia’s tale and Elsa and Dounia’s conversation about what Elsa is learning.
Near the end, readers discover that Dounia had never even told her own son about her childhood trauma.
Hidden uses a graphic novel format with simple text to tell Dounia’s story, which helps counteract the terror of that time and place.
The scenes are laid out in enough detail that young readers can understand what’s happening without needing a lot of background information, but they will likely have a lot of questions and may need help processing the honest and direct, but age-appropriate telling.
Hidden will be useful with younger students to discuss discrimination and the treatment of those who are seen as different.
An afterword encourages children to “fight against injustice and abuse of power and keep alive a spirit of resistance.” This message has a powerful resonance with today’s climate and could provide a historical background from which to draw modern comparisons.