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Graphic novels have long been emerging as a way to tell difficult and often traumatic stories. Since the late 1970s, they have also been a medium for telling stories about the Holocaust. From true stories to fictional ones, graphic novels are used to tell all kinds of stories about this time. Recently, authors and illustrators have been turning to stories about teenagers during the Holocaust.

This Museum program explores the depiction of teenagers in Holocaust graphic novels with David Polonsky, illustrator of Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, Ken Krimstein, author of When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens, and R.J. Palacio, author of White Bird: A Wonder Story. The conversation is moderated by AJ Frost, Newsletter Editor and Staff Writer for the Comics Beat.

Watch the program below.

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Hi everyone, my name is Sydney Yaeger and i'm the public programs coordinator at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): i'm so excited to introduce today's program drawing it out graphic novels teenagers and the Holocaust joining us today are rj placebo Ken Christine and David polonsky they will be in conversation with AJ frost.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): rj is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller wonder the books message inspired the choose kind movement.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): and has been embraced by readers around the world wonder was made into a blockbuster movie starring Julia Roberts Ellen Wilson and Jacob tremblay.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Palacios other New York Times bestselling books include pony and the graphic novel white bird, which is currently being filmed as a major motion picture starting Gillian Anderson and Helen Mirren.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): blasio lives in brooklyn with her husband two sons and two dogs Ken crime scene is a cartoonist for the new yorker magazine, and is also the author of.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): The graphic biography the three escapes of Honda rent a tyranny of truth.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): which was a finalist for the national Jewish book award in history and has been published in eight languages his new graphic history is when I grow up the last autobiographies of 68 ish teenagers.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): David polonsky is the illustrator of Anne frank's diary the graphic adaptation.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Is illustrations have appeared, and many of israel's leaving newspapers and magazines, he has illustrated, a number of children's books and when the Israel museum Award for children's book illustration in 2004 and 2008.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): David was the art director and lead artists for waltz with Bashir and animated documentary feature which was an official selection and the 2008 Cannes film festival.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): AJ frost will be our moderator is a staff writer and newsletter editor for the comics eat, as well as a grant writer for the asu foundation for a new American university.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): His work has appeared in Hebrew Jewish news of greater phoenix and the Jewish book Council website.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): AJ his life Eden, and their katha Moses live in phoenix Arizona and Superman remains his favorite comic book character.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): During today's discussion, please feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box and we'll get to as many as we can, at the end of the hour, so thank you all so much for being here and i'm now going to hand things over to AJ.

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AJ Frost: Thank you so much Sydney I really appreciate.

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AJ Frost: really nice introduction and thank you to all people from all over the world, who are joining us today.

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AJ Frost: This is a fantastic program and i'm so honored at the Museum of Jewish heritage asked me to.

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AJ Frost: moderate, so I am so glad that everyone has joined us today and i'm really excited to talk with our chat with our panelists rj.

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AJ Frost: David and Ken whose work I really admired I either reviewed or interviewed all of these panelists before and so i'm so happy that we can share this with you, so if Sydney should we all share our screens now or.

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AJ Frost: Should we.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah if everybody wants to come on camera.

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yeah.

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AJ Frost: hi.

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R.J. Palacio: hi.

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AJ Frost: hi so nice to see everyone, I can David, so I wanted to start you know when we first started thinking about this panel few months ago, how could we have for some that.

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AJ Frost: Holocaust comic books would be so in the Zeitgeist with the banning of mouse in Tennessee so I kind of wanted to start our conversation there to talk about.

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AJ Frost: To talk about mouths, and also to talk about the to talk about the importance of graphic novels as a kind of way to disseminate the.

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AJ Frost: holocaust, especially the history of the Holocaust, so I think rj can we start with you and then go can and then David about what mouse means what the banding means and how.

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AJ Frost: you're working response to.

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AJ Frost: A literature of the Holocaust and and yeah like your process.

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AJ Frost: yeah great stuff so.

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R.J. Palacio: yeah obviously it's it's it's horrifying that that books are being banned in the United States at any level any type of book mouse was and still is, I mean it's, not even a question of.

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R.J. Palacio: I remember reading mouse, and it was the first time that I felt like I didn't actually read a book, I experienced it, you know I.

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R.J. Palacio: I loved it, and so, so I was just i'm sorry, those are my dogs, I think you should move on to someone else well I put them in the other room i'm so sorry about that i'll sort of see my time to can or somebody else sorry that can.

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Ken Krimstein: Okay um my cats are quiet and.

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Ken Krimstein: mouse yeah I mean without mouse, I mean you know, in many ways it's so far it's I would say it's kind of the father of us all, I mean that that when that book came out, it was.

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Ken Krimstein: It was a revelation for me, although i've always love comics and but the way that the the art and the and the words work together, and I agree, I think.

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Ken Krimstein: banning any kind of books is just, especially for a topic like this it's just not not the right thing to do and and I, you know we were talking about it, and you know.

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Ken Krimstein: Whatever the reasons were that they may have said you're talking about kids today, you know they can look at stuff on their phones, which is far more insane than anybody can even imagine why can't they.

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Ken Krimstein: Read literature like this, I you know, again I just don't understand it dogs silence I seed my my time.

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Ken Krimstein: To the Senator from brooklyn.

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R.J. Palacio: sorry about that it's just such an important topic and it's it's, I just wanted to say that mouse was absolutely instrumental in inspiring me.

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R.J. Palacio: My graphic novel and white bird I mean I don't think I would have thought to do white bird had mouse not paved the way and i'm sure we all feel the same way.

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R.J. Palacio: It was just absolutely for me, as somebody growing up in New York City, who is not Jewish, by the way, having this sort of profound illustrated testament to the story was.

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R.J. Palacio: Again, one of the most.

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R.J. Palacio: impactful experiences I had ever experienced as a reader as a young person as a as a writer as an author on every level, and the idea that we are somehow limiting that experience to children to teenagers to other people is just it's just horrifying horrifying.

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AJ Frost: David, what was the response to mouse in Israel.

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David Polonsky: It was belated because it's not it's not like a very comics oriented the culture, so it took a while for for us to catch up, but it's it's perfect.

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David Polonsky: For for for all comics artists.

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David Polonsky: nothing to add to what what's been said, except that i'm sure that the this work will outlive this period of banning books that's.

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David Polonsky: So we just need to keep fighting mine and.

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David Polonsky: it's it's it's just.

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David Polonsky: it's just a shame for this generation that's it.

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AJ Frost: yeah it is.

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AJ Frost: I mean, as someone who also grew up with a reading mouse and I didn't think I received it for my bar mitzvah when I was in eighth grade or whatever.

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AJ Frost: It was really an impactful book for me is actually see its heart, something that I would like to kind of transition onto is the you know the visual aspect of of a graphic novel.

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AJ Frost: really brings the story to the reader in a way that it's just different than pros.

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AJ Frost: And I guess what I would like to say to the kind of the next part of the conversation, is why graphic novels why use this type of medium to convey the story, why not, why not pros, why not something else, so why were graphic novels, why do you think they are probably the.

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AJ Frost: Maybe the prime way to to kind of disseminate the kind of information, and can you think you could start.

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Ken Krimstein: Well, I I think when pictures and words come together.

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Ken Krimstein: We experience it's like it's like a performative it's like a performance it's like you feel it and you know as a person who draws.

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Ken Krimstein: You know i'm always drawn, I know that you can get a certain amount of emotion from a drawing, but when when you put just those right words with it.

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Ken Krimstein: You know I like to say there's humans human beings, we kind of read with our eyes in many ways.

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Ken Krimstein: our eyes are very advanced and you know, everybody kind of knows how to do it, I mean with my books even people say I never read a comic I never you know well, you read a bazooka Joe bubble gum thing, and you got that so, then you know.

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Ken Krimstein: You know it's a great way to to immerse people in a setting I think so that's why I like it.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: And I think that the question of the serious topics, like the Holocaust and it's easy, you can apply to any medium.

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David Polonsky: You know, like the the famous I think it's false alarm for the to the you can't write poetry after our sweets, but we have to, and we do and comics is an article is it's.

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David Polonsky: Talking about now since that that book and many others it's it's just another art form and the meaning of expression and it's not no different from any any others so i'm not sure that it's the menu but i'm sure that it's a great man.

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AJ Frost: rj.

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R.J. Palacio: You know i'm I would agree with what what they've already said and just add that, for me, was a question of also wanting to be able to share the story.

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R.J. Palacio: which you know is intended for younger people, maybe fourth grade and up with as many readers as many young readers as possible and I thought, a full color graphic novel was the way of sort of.

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R.J. Palacio: Reaching as wide an audience of possibly non readers as possible as well, so I I wanted to just kind of open it up, and I also had this.

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R.J. Palacio: Very visual idea for the story in mind, I mean I think one of the most fun things about creating a graphic novel is you kind of get to.

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R.J. Palacio: you're going to get to represent the movie that's playing in your head, you know because you're you're when you're you know when you're drawing a graphic novel you get to be sort of.

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R.J. Palacio: The director and the cinematographer and the costume designer and the lighting director all at once, you know and and deciding how best to translate the story that's in your head visually.

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R.J. Palacio: Along with the dialogue and all of that so so For those reasons that's why I decided to just kind of you know, I also wanted to do, I wanted to, I wanted to write a graphic novel and draw so.

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AJ Frost: Great.

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AJ Frost: You know, with the graphic novels that are part of the conversation that today, when I grow up the Anne Frank graphic patient in white bird to have these are historical and one of them is historical fiction, so I wanted to kind of talk about.

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AJ Frost: The process of each because each is a little bit different in david's case you had.

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AJ Frost: been can, to an extent, but with david's case the and frank diary of Anne Frank.

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AJ Frost: is so well known in the western Canada Now I want to know about how you approach that project what were the challenges and what were the opportunities to kind of.

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AJ Frost: get it, I it's not hard to say get it out to a wider audience, I think a lot of people know and frank story, but how do you even go beyond what.

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AJ Frost: Is a.

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AJ Frost: To go beyond you know what people have read through the last few decades, how do you do something that's new and fresh.

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David Polonsky: Well, it in fact it's it's sort of a Commission the project, we were approached by the front for buzzer so I, for my name i've been working for 15 years of different projects got a call.

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David Polonsky: So they're saying that when I make a.

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David Polonsky: If they're an animated film based on the Diary, what do you think about.

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David Polonsky: It First it was a film, then it became a graphic novel and and.

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David Polonsky: And we both said, of course, now.

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David Polonsky: Because because it's it's it's very close to teach it but she's become an icon.

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David Polonsky: And it's an image that's being used for all kinds of purposes she's the symbol of hooligans so for soccer Club in Italy and and in the.

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David Polonsky: mcs have heard the tools, you know, on their faces it's like a kind of this it's it's a it's a.

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David Polonsky: it's 100 it's how to approach because it's so corny but then we had another thought.

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David Polonsky: about it and we realize that somebody is going to do it, and so this is kind of this thing of responsibility, any challenge, and then we we read the book this time as a as adults and.

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David Polonsky: Then we were compelled to do it because, first of all, for me the discovery rediscovered was of humor.

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David Polonsky: And she's a very funny little teenage he's sarcastic and see so clever and she's a prolific writer, which is gifted.

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David Polonsky: And, and this is not part of the image, this is not part of the icon so so we our approach was to to emphasize exactly that is it to make it funny funny when when it's fun and to show the.

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David Polonsky: complexity, the way she could be very annoying.

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David Polonsky: We made a point out of including the park when she's she's talking about their first period because she's she's growing up.

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David Polonsky: And all of these humane things.

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David Polonsky: For us, are the message.

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David Polonsky: Of to dig under this monument and do something a little bit subversive.

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David Polonsky: To show her humanity which I think represents of values so it's it's morning with the things.

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AJ Frost: And rj I know that white bird is struggle fiction, but just because it's fiction doesn't mean that there's not a lot of research that has to go into creating such a project, so what was your process, as you were writing and creating the story for white bird.

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R.J. Palacio: Well, that the approach is almost the same just because you know when you're writing something, for instance, you can get away with saying.

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R.J. Palacio: You know, Sarah open the barn door and the reader can make any kind of you know you might even say the blue barn door something like that, but when you're drawing historical fiction, you have to research, what.

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R.J. Palacio: barn doors in 1938 France look like and in that region and and the specificity of all of the details, you know what the lanterns look like what kind of flashlights they would have used what kind of uniforms.

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R.J. Palacio: The French gendarmes would have used as opposed to you know who what what.

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R.J. Palacio: What Nazi units were in that region at that time, and unfortunately I found myself going deeper and deeper into rabbit holes that I never would have wanted to go into.

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R.J. Palacio: But I just felt that, in order to really portray the world, even though the story is fictional The world is not and and the history, obviously has to be represented with absolute.

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R.J. Palacio: deference and there could be no sort of to me at least I thought there's no dramatic license whatsoever allowed.

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R.J. Palacio: there's their their parameters that are better set and they're finite and I have to work my story within them.

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R.J. Palacio: So so as a result, I think the the research that that went into it was probably very similar to the research that has to go into any work of his historical sort of narrative so and that was my approach.

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AJ Frost: And Ken for your book of the texts that you base the graphic novel on where rediscovered only a few years ago.

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AJ Frost: So while these people are real they're anonymous so you have like this kind of middle ground where you're working with.

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AJ Frost: Real documents, but we don't really know too much about the people who wrote them we have other is an example let's let's not go into aggression, but how did you go about.

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AJ Frost: Trading and trying to figure out the different pieces that go into creating this graphic novel.

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Ken Krimstein: yeah I mean, I think I have to pick up on what.

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Ken Krimstein: These guys both said I did a ton of research, I mean before I knew it, I was in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Ken Krimstein: Vilna I walking the streets trying to see how you know where did the ghetto where was the ghetto situated to.

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Ken Krimstein: The parade grounds situated to the river and how you know, so I got you know I got a sense of the physical space and then I did a ton you know I.

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Ken Krimstein: I got them translated and I started to try and figure out who they were so if somebody said I played the mandolin.

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Ken Krimstein: And that was my passion, I did you know, like rj and I found out that mandolin orchestras were a huge thing and Eastern Europe, they couldn't afford violins.

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Ken Krimstein: But they could all get mandolin and they would have orchestras it would madeline's the size of bass fiddles and everything so, then I started to get that kind of stuff so I put the pieces together to try and.

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Ken Krimstein: Have it fill this to make this world come alive, so it was that I love that part you know collecting all the and then you sketch, and you redo it and yeah.

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R.J. Palacio: And the artifacts that history, and I think they hold a real.

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R.J. Palacio: Like when you can actually hold something and thank goodness for eBay.

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R.J. Palacio: Because I know that I found myself, you know ordering things online from you know I needed a little news boys CAP from the 1930s and stuff and I got it online so um but but it's there's something really moving to about holding these artifacts.

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Ken Krimstein: and looking at the other books that we've done, I mean we're dealing with a very similar time period, which was a long time ago, so they were certain kinds of dresses hats were big right, you know.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, we had to learn that right, and when you're drawing it well that's what we're all about like I didn't even for women, you know forget men but women more hats, you know it's important.

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David Polonsky: I have to show you guys something.

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David Polonsky: This is it because it's exactly what you're talking about it's my favorite.

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David Polonsky: Research part of the of the book she's she's having a nice describing a vivid dream.

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David Polonsky: But he got a bit of money from her dad and and she's imagining all the stuff that she's going to buy and it's a very long list, and I have no idea what these garments and undergarments mean and, and this is a wonderful way to connect to that were 12 year old girl inside me.

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David Polonsky: And it was it was a joyous Julius a journey into for discussion.

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Ken Krimstein: that's great incredible yeah.

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AJ Frost: That was great I guess what I good moving on from that is.

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AJ Frost: How much do you think your work could be considered a pedagogical tool and how much of it is just trying to tell a great story.

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AJ Frost: And rj Maybe you can start.

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R.J. Palacio: um you know I i'm I hope that they are you know I would love for it to be used in classrooms I would love for teachers to use them as starting points you know I know that both my sons read mouse, for instance in high school and it was the beginning of a.

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R.J. Palacio: Again, for them, it was an entire experience and it was something that they could then layer other other readings over, and so, if white bird could be used to that.

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R.J. Palacio: And I would be proud I but but it's also a reading experience it's also you know, the case of white bird, it is a love story of two teenagers who fall in love during this sort of horrible time I also wanted to show.

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R.J. Palacio: Because there was there was a timeliness to the to the reason, one of the reasons I wrote this one, I wrote it, even though it was.

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R.J. Palacio: Before sort of this horrible surge in anti Semitism in this country and elsewhere, when I started working on it, but.

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R.J. Palacio: You know, there was something going on in this country to their you know the Muslim ban and sort of the other thing of groups of people.

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R.J. Palacio: And you know, we know that genocides don't start with mass murders, they start with hateful words they start with rhetoric, they start with.

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R.J. Palacio: The normalizing of hatred, basically, and so I I wrote white bird because I wanted to show how this little girl experienced that in her country, and France it's it's story of.

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R.J. Palacio: A young young girl who is Jewish who ends up who begins the story, you know as an average normal little girl going to school and happy, as can be and slowly as France becomes occupied by Germany, you know the the.

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R.J. Palacio: French Jews were others within their own country and ultimately.

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R.J. Palacio: They saw terrible fate as well, and so I just wanted to show young people especially how that could happen it starts one way it starts with words it starts with bands it starts with censorship and then it becomes.

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R.J. Palacio: What it became and so So if you know kids come to it or young readers come to my book, in order to just sort of get into a good story, but ultimately they start learning something that's great too, you know.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: What was the question again.

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Oh.

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AJ Frost: It just was.

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AJ Frost: Are these graphic novels should they be used as pedagogue pedal logical tools like teaching tools or should they just be experienced almost as just a reading experience for entertainment, you know what, what do you feel is like the best way to kind of experience the book.

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David Polonsky: I think.

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David Polonsky: As a children's book illustrator I.

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David Polonsky: am a little bit.

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David Polonsky: afraid of this kind of terms of education, because usually it's it's first of all my own expression, but in this case it's absolutely educational and but, but not in the not in the factual not necessarily in the factual way, but more of like a humanities approach.

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David Polonsky: it's like it's like an aesthetic education, and I think the fact that.

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David Polonsky: The way if a young reader connects to this character through through her through her liveliness.

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David Polonsky: So the fact that the drawings are pretty or whatever, then you know, drawing your your your reenacting history in a much more.

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David Polonsky: Much more efficient way than just a naming the fact, in this case, of course, it's it's also an historic document that we have to.

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David Polonsky: To to respect the decks and then, of course, a lot of research research when willing to eat the visiting the House in Amsterdam, and all of that, but.

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David Polonsky: I think that it's it's again it's mainly the the humanistic idea that people are complex that things are not like black and white.

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David Polonsky: And, and you can teach kids they're.

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David Polonsky: Not just not telling them a showing.

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AJ Frost: and

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Ken Krimstein: yeah I mean, I think, for me, it was very much about the story um but its history, and I did want to respect the documents.

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Ken Krimstein: um but I found when the so all of these happened before the war on these kids did not know the war was coming I mean I lived in New York.

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Ken Krimstein: On you know 910 2001 and we did not know you know it was just a normal day you know, and then you know, and so I wanted to to use this as a lens.

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Ken Krimstein: To kind of say what you know the others have been saying that these are just normal kids teenagers want to live a life and and I had to keep a boundary as as his writing as a historian I couldn't let the fact that.

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Ken Krimstein: They couldn't have any idea what was coming to them, I had to be totally true to them and let the person who's reading it.

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Ken Krimstein: That we know so in a way the reader has isn't ironic or privileged position the characters.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, maybe a lot like what you know, David and what we all try and do that they don't know we the reader so you know, I guess, to an extent if you're supposed to learn anything from history or reading history if this is.

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Ken Krimstein: Parents and that's I guess you'd say the pedal logical version, but I wanted it, I had to pick six that had stories in them that I could illustrate I mean, some of them were very internal some of them weren't that partial I wanted scenes that I could draw you know that could make a story.

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AJ Frost: You know I just read.

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AJ Frost: The fact that really kind of shook me to my court statistic that said 20% of 18 to 39 year olds believe that the Holocaust was either a mess had been exaggerated.

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AJ Frost: or we're not sure enough from the claims conference study of 2020, this is only two years ago, and so what is not saying that.

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AJ Frost: You guys have writers creative people have an obligation to teach this or present this material mind when you hear that fact how's that make you feel.

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AJ Frost: And now that you've been part of the creative process to create a book that does feature this you know horrible time in history, as your subject you know how do you disseminate the information in a way that gets to people that.

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AJ Frost: allows them to explore the material, but maybe not judge them for not knowing everything about the Holocaust, or even knowing even the basis of all of us, how do you bring them into the conversation, so that they can ask the questions.

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AJ Frost: Are.

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R.J. Palacio: You do it carefully, but you do it, I mean I I did feel a responsibility to.

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R.J. Palacio: To.

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R.J. Palacio: You know i've always thought, again I grew up in New York, my husband's Jewish i'm not but I grew up knowing about the Holocaust.

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R.J. Palacio: I was always stunned, to find out how many people actually don't you know and and there's a good number of people out there who, as you just pointed to that statistic.

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R.J. Palacio: Who did not grow up hearing about the Holocaust, I mean for my my husband, whose mother lost family, you know this was a very, very visceral and and.

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R.J. Palacio: It was part of his upbringing, it was it was part of his you know every community, I mean there was there wasn't anybody who wasn't impacted by this.

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R.J. Palacio: And it just has always seemed to me strange that we could live in to alternate worlds, where there are people who.

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R.J. Palacio: who know about the Holocaust viscerally who've experienced it who have relatives who who were lost and that they're growing up, side by side with people who have never heard about it or deny it It just seems.

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R.J. Palacio: crazy and and I think part of that is that, for whatever reasons I don't think the Holocaust is really taught in schools at younger grade levels in the United States, I mean it's not part of any curriculum.

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R.J. Palacio: And that's one of the reasons why again, I wanted to write white bird.

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R.J. Palacio: Which is for younger audiences because I knew that in many cases, it would be a young readers first introduction to the Holocaust and I thought.

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R.J. Palacio: So I felt that responsibility very keenly of sort of introducing this theme to people who have grown up with it, and also to young readers who knew nothing of it.

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R.J. Palacio: And so there's a very thorough glossary and appendix at the back of one white bird for for anybody who wants to read more you know there's you know I point them to the diary event for it, you know all of those things.

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R.J. Palacio: Because I think we really do have an opportunity to you know not let future generations forget, you know that that is an obligation, I think it's a moral obligation it's an imperative.

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AJ Frost: And you know kind of piggybacking on that and what's so interesting about your book is, as you said, it's right before the war, all the.

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AJ Frost: The people that you, you draw their life from the essay they don't know what the Holocaust is quite yet, and so in a way you're showing.

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AJ Frost: A kind of reality that people don't really know I think we'll just assume that Nazis came to power and then immediately, it was the death camps, but you're showing like this in between.

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AJ Frost: In between world where there was once a piece, but there was people just thought life would go on how do you how do you kind of explain this kind of regional people don't really know the history, but they really don't know this kind of.

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AJ Frost: aspect of the Holocaust, where people just kind of live in life well.

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Ken Krimstein: Really yeah I wanted to try and show, I mean we're in a were historically in a very interesting time where the last sort of adults that ever.

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Ken Krimstein: I mean pretty soon the Holocaust is just going to be a completely historical event like nobody who ever lived through it is going to be around anymore.

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Ken Krimstein: And I felt like you know I agree with, I mean the statistics that you talk about are just I mean they're incomprehensible to me and governments and people have to do things about it, what can I do as a storyteller well.

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Ken Krimstein: You know I thought by having that window it's kind of like it could happen it's real it could happen like anytime anyplace to anybody they didn't know, there was nothing.

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Ken Krimstein: You know I read a lot of history people you know they don't know was going to have 1939 they didn't know what it was going to be like in 1942 1945.

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Ken Krimstein: And I was trying to say you know, maybe you think you know you know and i'm not going to talk about like other you know because I think, maybe there is a lot of.

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Ken Krimstein: Information about the Holocaust out there, maybe not I don't know, but this to me was a way of saying we're all vulnerable and we're all human.

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Ken Krimstein: And boy a boy what we would have given to have a time machine in 1939 say no, no, no, this is happening, but it made it more powerful to me to not let them know.

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Ken Krimstein: To show that yeah that was just hey you know I read in one of the diet in one of the autobiographies somebody wrote and said gosh i'm writing this because I can imagine what it's going to be like here in Poland with the Jews and.

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Ken Krimstein: And I just don't what.

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Ken Krimstein: I mean that that to me was the That was the thing that said I gotta do this book.

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AJ Frost: David, how is it.

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AJ Frost: You know the context, a little bit different Israel and isn't the United States, I feel, because there's so many first connection so someone who was a Holocaust survivor whose family experienced the show off, but how do you.

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AJ Frost: How do you continue telling these stories in ways that appeal appeal, but that.

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AJ Frost: really affect how people behave or how they see the world or how they can take lessons of Holocaust internalize it so that the society, you know.

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AJ Frost: improves or gets better the progress is in a way that is more equitable for everyone.

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David Polonsky: Well, in Israel, we don't have a shortage of of Holocaust studies in schools, but I must say that it does mean that kids understand that.

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David Polonsky: Because.

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David Polonsky: I remember back my school days I don't remember it, I remember great teachers, but I don't.

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David Polonsky: But there were a few and just somebody if somebody was giving me the information.

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David Polonsky: didn't get new really involved, I read on frank's diary when I was 16 and i'm i'm not sure I was moved to tell you the truth, I would I would feel felt to me, the only story, and I am a boy.

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David Polonsky: You know I needed that because there was another nobody to to get me involved.

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David Polonsky: And I think what's important to do that it's like this the Jewish thing of Rita they're starting to to retell the story, because the sister is because.

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David Polonsky: it's turning is quickly turning into text the lifestyle was survivors are passing this scan mentioned, and there is nothing to do about it and it's becoming.

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David Polonsky: it's becoming a store in when it's it's it's our responsibility to to keep telling it in every which way possible way.

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David Polonsky: Right and that's The main reason not to ban books, of course.

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David Polonsky: Yes.

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David Polonsky: just keep and that's the that's the great Jewish tradition of.

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David Polonsky: Repeating and repeating and repeating texts in different contexts and adjusting it to to to to change to changing circumstances to do, he is very good, but and that's true stories, the facts are gone nobody knows what exactly what was what happened, nobody ever know that said.

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AJ Frost: When.

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AJ Frost: You were writing the book, did you have a specific demographic in mind, I know that.

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AJ Frost: Sometimes.

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AJ Frost: That a comic is marketed towards a younger audience or is marketed as an adult graphic novel but really.

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AJ Frost: The experience I cover all these almost universal I mean do you feel like that, that there should be some kind of demographic that each is supposed to appeal to or that everyone can just enjoy the comic, for it is Ken, what do you think.

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Ken Krimstein: I had, I did not know i'm still trying to work that out, and I think the people who are no I didn't I wrote it for for my kids I guess you know who are in their.

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Ken Krimstein: 20s.

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Ken Krimstein: I don't know I wrote it for anybody mind.

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AJ Frost: yeah.

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AJ Frost: rj I mean, I know that yours is white bread is kind of market as a young adult graphic novel but I I read, I read a few years ago and it really moved me to so.

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R.J. Palacio: yeah it could be, I think that's the beauty of graphic novels as they could they are age that you and anyone could read them, I mean I.

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R.J. Palacio: I definitely I I was known as I am known as the author of wonder that comes with a fan base immediately and what's Nice is to be able to use once.

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R.J. Palacio: fan base, I mean there are a lot of people who love wonder who been want to read the next book by the author of wonder.

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R.J. Palacio: And I really wanted to use my platform to again try to reach as many young people, so I was specifically writing for that age group 10 and up again 10 to 100.

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R.J. Palacio: But that was a very purposeful and and yeah it was a very purposeful thing you know I definitely was looking for the younger group.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: It was, it was clear from the start, especially for our a full man who was responsible for the adaptation, the acting.

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David Polonsky: He said his parents kind of met that they met in the last days of the.

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David Polonsky: ghetto they got married, the way to the concentration camp.

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David Polonsky: And the Holocaust humor is a daily thing which was a daily thing in the studio when we're working on films it's like it's every day they and again mostly through human, of course, and.

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David Polonsky: him and now he has a teenage kids they happy, they were in their 20s already and and the.

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David Polonsky: truth be told, kids read less these days.

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David Polonsky: And he specifically said said Oh, they got to get them.

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AJ Frost: You know what is the what was the greatest challenge of creating this graphic novels were there elements that you.

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AJ Frost: wanted to include but couldn't was there stuff that you thought might be too graphic to include in a way, or was.

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AJ Frost: I mean I comics are so deliberate but i'm just curious if there was stuff that had to be cut out, you know, David I mean with that and frank graphic novel I mean because people are stuff that you felt you had to get include almost everything.

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David Polonsky: But he was impossible to include everything.

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David Polonsky: for long.

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David Polonsky: pages of carvings and that was a great challenge, especially, especially for Ari and would condense the material and you have to keep the original text and editing away the work.

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David Polonsky: And he took the liberty of editing text inside the balloons so so the voiceover is is the original code very condensed, of course.

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David Polonsky: And I think, but the word points that I mentioned that the talk about puberty, for example, and it was, we made a point out of including that but, although in earlier editions of the of the diary was it was edited.

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David Polonsky: out as long as similar to her father was alive, he wouldn't he wouldn't.

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David Polonsky: Allow it was born in the 19th century, so it makes sense, every time if changing audiences have changed and the talk about sexuality is not is not as problematic and so that was an issue, on the one hand, on the other hand, we even want to delineate alienated.

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David Polonsky: and different kinds of.

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David Polonsky: Conservative audiences.

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David Polonsky: For example, I would love for returns in a Muslim cut it when it's been decided to argh to a time where will values about these issues are different from for mine.

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David Polonsky: So it was like a miss very difficult balance of finding a way that there's a there's a passage when she mentions the cheat sheet.

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David Polonsky: she's excited by female needed now, this is it's very difficult to to depict in it.

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David Polonsky: So we found this kind of roundabout way, using the Greek sculptures because it's part of the world, he was admirers eight K mythologizing everything so, so there are sculpture, so these kinds of solutions to keep as much in as possible, and the other difficult part was.

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David Polonsky: At the end, because the diary stops it doesn't end.

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And we know that.

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David Polonsky: it's and.

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David Polonsky: So it was, it was important to to something that.

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David Polonsky: Something is some things up.

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David Polonsky: You say that that's the place where i'm father's from an because I know this is the last entry and she does, and the first of all it's heartbreaking and and.

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David Polonsky: and complicated and it took the two years of work on the book to figure out the last illustration in in the end it's like compilation.

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David Polonsky: Of the different ads that we have in the book The different or different moves because she mentioned in the in the last entry she says Ryan such here she's a teenager why i'm like that, and then i'm like this.

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David Polonsky: So we show all the different phases and in a way to completion of the initial analysis of showing complexity showing something the human behind the I.

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AJ Frost: J rj.

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R.J. Palacio: I I told whatever was necessary and showed whatever was necessary to tell the story and didn't hold back.

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R.J. Palacio: Also, though consciously making sure that I never just used.

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R.J. Palacio: The Holocaust as as a gimmick, so to speak, as a as a as a place to you know you know you have you have to be reverential to you have to be.

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R.J. Palacio: Somewhere and approach it with with that sort of reverence for the subject matter so.

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R.J. Palacio: I just I wanted to always make sure that that whatever I portrayed whatever scenes I portray that there was never anything gratuitous or there was never anything that that wasn't absolutely essential to telling the specific story that I was telling.

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AJ Frost: Can.

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Ken Krimstein: yeah it was I.

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Ken Krimstein: learned of the civilization this entire world that I didn't know about that was far more complicated than I ever thought and I I ended up calling it yet issue mania because.

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Ken Krimstein: yeah because they went all the way from like Latvia down to Crimea and all they had in common was they all spoke Yiddish but between there, there were there were right wingers left brainers communists this that and.

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Ken Krimstein: And I wanted to connect this bizarre world which I loved they did tango dancing, and all this stuff.

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Ken Krimstein: With with with what it's like to be a teenager that I remember from being a teenager and so that I was hoping that there's a universal and then even call them teenagers in those days they call them youth, you know but um.

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Ken Krimstein: I wanted to get that kind of power of possibility that teens had from the 30s and make it relate to a universal thing so that was a lot of.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, but I saw that there were similarities and I saw people that I knew from high school a women's luber you know, a jock.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, a poet, you know, want to be joni Mitchell, even though there weren't even joni mitchell's in those days saw them, they were all there they were all there so that was what I had to try and do.

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Ken Krimstein: yeah.

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AJ Frost: So this is going to be my last question before we move on to Q amp a but.

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AJ Frost: What do you want readers to walk away with after they finish your book what's the feeling, or the thought that you wish that they would have.

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AJ Frost: This could be the idealized version of of what you would want or maybe there's like a realistic one, but rj when someone walks away from white bird what's like the first thing you wish they would feel.

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R.J. Palacio: God I don't know I just I want them to leave feeling let's put it that way, just feeling yeah.

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Can.

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Ken Krimstein: I would want them to say um.

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Ken Krimstein: But you know never again what was this I never want this, this is, this was the worst thing that I could possibly, how can humans do this, and I want to read and study more and more and more about it and prevented.

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yeah.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: If somebody can relate, first of all, the greatest compliment is if we read the book when that happens that's.

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David Polonsky: that's amazing it means that there was a lot there that they want to understand and it's kind of you want to rise up and examine again.

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David Polonsky: I think the the the fact that she she somebody can figure all can relate to another girl in Europe in the fall in the 40s.

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David Polonsky: that's the best you can do for me.

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R.J. Palacio: I want to revise my answer, is this, this is the.

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David Polonsky: This is what I wanted.

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R.J. Palacio: I want them to walk away with.

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AJ Frost: Absolutely yeah.

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Ken Krimstein: I did not read your book yet, at least to the last page.

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R.J. Palacio: All right, there you go that's the last page.

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AJ Frost: Great so now I would love to go on us q&a is a really great questions that came in during the course of our chat.

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AJ Frost: And I like to start with this one, and it goes is there such a thing as appropriate age ranges in Holocaust do graphic novels how early can we begin introducing children to these important books rj.

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R.J. Palacio: You know I I personally think that the Holocaust should be part of the curriculum in United States public schools and can be approached the way we approach the civil rights movement.

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R.J. Palacio: and Martin Luther King Day and stuff do, do you know, introduce children as early as kindergarten to sort of these themes, but in age appropriate ways obviously we're not going to be showing you know night will fall to six year olds but.

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R.J. Palacio: You know and and just be part of the foundational sort of learning that they have so that by the time they are in high school, by the time they do read mouse and by the time they do you know they have.

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R.J. Palacio: They have some foundation on which to understand this, because it is kind of I mean if you think about the idea that there are you know 16 and 17 year olds who are.

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R.J. Palacio: coming to this without any inkling about what happened, it is kind of a shocking reality, and so I don't see why we wouldn't prepare kids at younger ages to understand things the reality of what did happen.

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R.J. Palacio: so that they can actually have a you know, so that we can actually help them process these things.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: And I think.

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David Polonsky: Exactly what I just said and.

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David Polonsky: Around eight maybe eight year olds.

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David Polonsky: To negative, I have no idea, but of course it's.

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David Polonsky: I think most people have an intuitive feeling about their children about what interests them and and where they are so it really depends, I think.

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David Polonsky: yeah but but it's it's definitely it's definitely okay it's up to 10 year olds.

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David Polonsky: about these complicated things because they already seen them and they read about them in other places.

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AJ Frost: Can.

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Ken Krimstein: I I think kids know about everything anyways and they are always looking at stuff that they're not supposed to see and i'd rather.

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Ken Krimstein: Make sure that what they're finding out is sort of like like kind of what they.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, let let's make sure that they find out the right kind of a right answer if there's a right answer because they're going to be making stuff up anyway, I think there's so much information out there in the world if we.

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Ken Krimstein: You know if we think we can hide stuff from kids I don't think we're gonna do a very good job of that.

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AJ Frost: Another question we got, why did you choose to tell stories of teenagers, how does the graphic novel format lend itself to the stage of life can.

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Ken Krimstein: Well teens love to have fun and comics are fun I got and they're fun to draw just a lively, I can you mean cut great comments have been written about every every stage of LIFE I just feel that.

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Ken Krimstein: You know, there was a great it was I was researching the book and I read something that a guy wrote about.

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Ken Krimstein: The Beatles when the Beatles came up and he said he said teams will teams will find.

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Ken Krimstein: will have their own fun teams will make fun, I mean it doesn't if you're living in like a detention camper and whatever you know you'll make a tin can into a into a an amplifier something so teens are it's that it's that moment in life, where you're just full of.

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Ken Krimstein: possibility and.

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Ken Krimstein: I don't know I mean it's a wonderful time of life, you have hair.

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AJ Frost: rj, what do you think.

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R.J. Palacio: yeah I completely agree it's also fraud, though it's it's I mean that the thing with with.

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R.J. Palacio: teens is and young you know you preteens as well, I mean I love writing that viewpoint, and from that that time period in a person's life because there is something so.

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R.J. Palacio: So, moving about the fact that they are experiencing so many things, for the first time, and you know when you when you become an adult you, you know you see that you've seen that you've done that you know there's that kind of.

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R.J. Palacio: jaded aspect to one's life that happens, but when you're a teenager or preteen you know you're really these feelings that you're going through sometimes.

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R.J. Palacio: they're the very first time you're feeling that and that emotion is is as an artist really fun to delve into and and to express and to write about so that that's why I like writing books for kids about kids.

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AJ Frost: David.

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David Polonsky: And i'm really not an authority on the because I was born in the Union users are being brought up in Israel, without reading comics really the person okay.

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David Polonsky: So, so I don't have, and I believe we create for for the for the child inside ourselves which, first of all, trying to introduce ourselves.

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David Polonsky: yeah and any any any doesn't stop at any any agent, I think the only the only thing that you need to take in mind a to consider is what.

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David Polonsky: My understanding of something that is age appropriate is if the if the reader is is experienced enough to understand what you're talking about.

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David Polonsky: it's not about moral issues it's it's about just understanding, this is what why you wouldn't discuss sex with with with children it Besides, it being a justifiable.

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David Polonsky: They just don't they don't have the the hormones physiology that it's it's it's it's it doesn't get that does not relate to them and they yeah.

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David Polonsky: But, but if you find something that you can you remember, understanding, we can communicate, so he is not.

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AJ Frost: How long did it take.

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AJ Frost: From the concept to completion, to create your books, you know there's no set timeline take to create a comics and then take you know, sometimes days, sometimes years sometimes decades, how long did it take for each of you to create.

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AJ Frost: This the graphic novel that we're talking about today rj.

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R.J. Palacio: It took me about a year.

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Ken Krimstein: Can I think it probably took about two years and change.

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AJ Frost: David how long did it take to create the graphic.

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David Polonsky: Two and a half, two years.

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AJ Frost: I think I want to end on this question, because I think it's a really good one.

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AJ Frost: And it goes, how do you think future artists and writers will portray the time we are living in now, what will the tone be.

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AJ Frost: and David why don't you start.

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David Polonsky: To hope there's somebody there.

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R.J. Palacio: jr kuma I yeah I would David now I am.

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R.J. Palacio: I hope, as we come through and there's another side of this and I i'm hopeful or praying that what we're experiencing now, at this very moment, is we are sort of in the depths of a wave of phase.

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R.J. Palacio: And I do think, if you look at history humanity has gone through these sort of you know ups and downs and and.

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R.J. Palacio: And I think it has always been artists and writers, who tweak the Zeitgeist a little bit who may be raised.

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R.J. Palacio: You know, a generation to understand and to be aware of things, and then they treat each other.

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R.J. Palacio: With more kindness and and that was my hope with wonder that kids would read it, and be inspired to want to be kinder to one another, my hope with white bird was that.

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R.J. Palacio: Young people would read it, and remember the past and not relive it, you know the the epigram of the book is the the epigraph of the book is is the George Sunday Anna quote if we don't remember the past are condemned to relive it.

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R.J. Palacio: So I would hope that somebody writing about this time we're in now would be able to write the the ending, on the other end of things which is that we got out of this terrible period, and we were all.

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R.J. Palacio: nicer to one another, I mean that's my hope you ask what the hope is i'm not saying it's gonna happen, but that's my hope.

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AJ Frost: Can.

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Ken Krimstein: I just want to read it, so I can figure it out.

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AJ Frost: yeah.

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AJ Frost: I think.

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Ken Krimstein: Sydney.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): hi AJ was that I think he said that was your last question.

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AJ Frost: yay yes yeah okay awesome.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Well, thank you all so much, this has been such an amazing conversation Thank you to AJ for moderating and.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): I personally learned a lot, and thank you to all of you out there, especially I saw we have a lot of educators on, so thank you to you all, especially.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And everything we do at the museum is made possible through donor support so to those of you watching we hope you'll consider making a donation to support the museum or becoming a member and joining us for our upcoming programs, which you can check out at the link in the zoom chat.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Have a great afternoon, and thank you all again for coming, and thank you again to our panelists and our moderator.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): bye.

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R.J. Palacio: bye all is really great.

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R.J. Palacio: talking to you today.

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R.J. Palacio: and take care, thank you AJ.

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Header image: Shanghai Jewish School lower sixth form, 1946. Gift in memory of Chaja Haas. 2009.P.48.