Review of 83 Days in Mariupol: A War Diary

83 Days in Mariupol: A War Diary 83 Days in Mariupol: A War Diary
by Don Brown; illus. by the author
High School    Clarion/HarperCollins    128 pp.
5/23    9780063311565    $22.99
e-book ed.  9780063311589    $10.99

Here’s a rare chronicle of a contemporary, ongoing war. This comic-format “war diary” isn’t told from the viewpoint of any one person, although individual perspectives are plentifully represented and woven throughout the narrative in a cohesive fashion. Rather, it’s the diary of Mariupol, a port city situated on the far eastern edge of Ukraine. A prologue recounts the shared history of Ukraine and Russia. The narrative then plunges into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and the eighty-three-day siege of Mariupol. Using a spare, understated text that synthesizes basic facts and primary-source quotes, Brown relies on his pen-and-ink and digital paint illustrations to do the heavy lifting of conveying what it’s like to live in a war zone. The composition of the panel layouts, the sketchiness of the illustrations, and the black, white, and gray color palette all serve this purpose. The siege wears on, and things go from bad to worse. As the end appears imminent, the resistance retreats to a sprawling steel plant for their last stand and eventual surrender on May 17. By then, ninety percent of the city has been destroyed and twenty thousand civilians killed. An afterword discusses the unfinished business of the war and the legacy of the siege. This powerful work of graphic nonfiction concludes with source notes and a bibliography.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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