83 Days in Mariupol: A War Diary

HarperCollins/Clarion. May 2023. 128p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780063311565.
Gr 9 Up–No punches are pulled in this stark, unflinching diary of the siege on Mariupol by Russian forces sent by Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022. The brutality and senselessness of war are front and center in this work of graphic nonfiction. The diary opens with important history about the region and Putin’s true intentions. Brown, known for his intense, well-documented nonfiction, and working in a muted palette, uses black and white this time to great effect. The relentless gray panels accentuate the crushing burdens of bombings and attacks on normal life. Panel sizes and close-ups bring immediacy to the atrocities of war, while quotes from those present, sourced in the back matter, are included in speech bubbles. Civilians are targeted and gunned down and left in the streets. Water and electricity stop. Those residents who cannot flee hole up in the Azovstal steel plant using WWII bunkers. Eventually, the Ukrainian forces must fall back there themselves. Civilians continue to try to escape. On May 17, 2022, the Ukrainian forces, despite Herculean efforts, surrendered. The brutal siege killed 20,000 civilians and destroyed 90 percent of the city. The afterword, set in January 2023, paints the current picture of U.S. and NATO support. Putin attempts to break the resolve of the Ukrainians by targeting hospitals, housing, and water and electrical plants. There is no happy rebuilding story to make readers feel better.
VERDICT An important piece of history in progress is captured here, and readers will not fail to be moved. An important purchase for high school libraries.

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