Sensitive graphic-novel memoir of '80s Polish childhood.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Marzi paints a vivid picture of everyday life in Poland during the last decade of Communist rule, told from a 10-year-old girl's perspective. Marzi and her family contend with food shortages, factory strikes, the rise of the Solidarity movement and even the after-effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Even amid these history-shaping events, Marzi addresses the universal matters of mid-childhood: friendship, school, chores, visits to relatives, pets, religious training and fear of the unknown.

Positive messages

Marzi is part of a large, boisterous extended family poor in money but rich in love and tradition. They may get in each other's way and squabble, but they work together when times are tough. Marzi helps with manual labor when it is harvest time at her relatives' farm. When Marzi's father is on strike and no one has heard from him in weeks, the family rallies to keep spirits up.

Positive role models

Marzi is presented as sensitive, lively girl with many interests and aspirations. Like most pre-teens, she is concerned with having as much fun as she can, but she also sees the harsher aspects of her life in Poland and works to make things easier for her parents and extended family members.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Marzi's father, her uncles, and various other characters drink alcohol and sometimes become a little drunk. Marzi's father smokes cigarettes regularly, and his wife complains about it constantly. Marzi and her cousin smoke a stolen cigarette and are sick afterward.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this touching and humorous graphic novel presents an episodic chronicle of life in 1980s Poland during the last years of Communist rule. Household business and historical events are both seen from the perspective of a sensitive, lively girl who dreams of freedom.

What's the story?

Born in Poland in 1979, 10 years before the fall of the Iron Curtain, young Marzi Sowa learns to navigate the pathways of early childhood while keeping one eye on the confusing world of adults living under Communist rule. This episodic memoir depicts events both deeply personal and literally history-making. Marzi spends vacations in the country, plays with friends in the hallways of her apartment building, and tries to please her ballet teacher. She also deals with food shortages, worries while her father is on strike from his factory, and witnesses sweeping change with the rise of the Solidarity movement, which eventually brings down the Communist government.

Is it any good?


Marzena Sowa captures her '80s childhood in Communist Poland with clarity, humor, and pathos in MARZI. She unself-consciously recounts the grand enthusiams and stinging humiliations of day-to-day life for a sensitive grade-schooler, in particular for one living in economic and political uncertainty. Using a limited palette of browns, grays, and reds and a strict six-panels-per-page layout, Sylvain Savoia creates art that fits the subject perfectly -- alternately cartoonish and highly realistic to depict Marzi's inner and outer worlds.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the history of communism in Europe and the events that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

  • Because of shortages, Marzi's family often cannot buy favorite foods. In the U.S., we tend to believe that the foods we like will always be available. But are there some situations where shortages might happen here, either now or in the future?

  • Marzi's mother and father have very different parenting strategies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a "worrier" vs. being more "happy-go-lucky"?

  • Marzi's father and the other workers at the factory go on strike in protest against low wages and unfair practices. How can the collective actions of working people affect public opinion? What are the dangers that might come from speaking out against authority?

Book details

Author:Marzena Sowa
Illustrator:Sylvain Savoia
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publication date:October 25, 2011
Number of pages:240

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 12 year old Written bydiaryofamommy January 7, 2012

Great and appropriate.

Nothing objectionable other than drinking and smoking (which for the most part have consequences), and it's very unique --- my son loved it.
Teen, 16 years old Written byNIXY December 17, 2011


i really liked it!


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