Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
With a preface by Will Eisner.
Paracuellos is a work of great courage, created at a time when telling the truth about Spain's political past could get one killed. It is arguably the most important graphic memoir ever created in comics.
Carlos Gimenez s autobiographical account of the plight of children in post-World War II Fascist Spain has won virtually every comics award in Europe, including Best Album at the 1981 Angouleme Festival, and the Heritage Award atAngouleme in 2010.
In the late 1930s when Spanish fascists led by Franco, and aided by Hitler and Mussolini, overthrew the elected government, almost 200,000 men and women fell in battle, were executed, or died in prison. Their orphaned children and others ripped from the homes of the defeated were shuttled from Church-run home to home and fed a steady diet of torture and disinformation by a totalitarian state bent on making them productive citizens.
Carlos Gimenez was one of those children. In 1975, after Franco s death, Carlos began to tell his story. Breaking the code of silence proved to be a milestone, both for the comics medium and for a country coming to terms with its past.
An illustrated essay by Carmen Moreno-Nuno, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Kentucky, places the comics in historical perspective.
The stories transcend just being about a historical moment in Spain. Their humanity will speak to everyone. The stories are heartbreakers, but Carlos never loses his sense of humor. William Stout"

136 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1975

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Carlos Giménez

162 books48 followers
Madrid, 1941,
es el autor más importante de la historieta española de las últimas tres décadas. Cronista de la transición política en la trilogía España Una, España Grande y España Libre (1976-1977) y autor del mejor retrato interior del mundo del cómic español en la serie Los Profesionales. Asimismo, es el máximo exponente del tebeo autobiográfico con la serie Paracuellos y en obras como Barrio o Rambla arriba, Rambla abajo.

Además ha realizado, a lo largo de su dilatada carrera, comics de diversos géneros como Dani Futuro, Delta 99, Hom, Koolau el leproso, Érase una vez en el futuro, la serie Sexo y chapuza o, más recientemente, Jonás.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
64 (37%)
4 stars
79 (46%)
3 stars
22 (12%)
2 stars
4 (2%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews243 followers
November 3, 2017

Carlos Giménez's autobiographical comic series of stories about boys who were reared in State and Church-run Social Aid Homes after the Civil War in Spain, gets a very high recommendation from me.

Gimenéz entered the Social Aid system when he was about six year old, and spent the next eight years in five different Homes. Everything that is told in his stories, is taken from real events. His friends at Social Aid helped him to bring the book about, by providing an infinity of anecdotes, names and details about the Homes.

This memoir of growing up in the orphanages of Franco's Spain, is as powerful and heart-rending as Spiegelman's Maus or Satrapi's Persepolis, maybe even more so since the stories are all written from the perspective of the children who lived there.
The faces of the authorities who ruled over and abused the boys, are depicted as distored and nightmarish, just as they would to distressed children.
The characterization of the boys is needle-sharp.

Their deprivation was extreme. They were always hungry, and during summer, there wasn't any water to drink. There was the constant threat and reality of physical and emotional violence. The bullies tortured the weaker children with even more vicious creativity than the authorities.
The similarities between these Social Aid Homes and fascist concentration camps is apparent.

Despite all the hardships these boys had to endure, the humor and sensitivity with which the stories are told and illustrated, will fill your heart with warm compassion.

 photo 5B33C43D-F8B8-46B0-98FC-5A537213A674.jpg
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,932 reviews687 followers
February 6, 2017
Heartbreaking look at the church-run "homes" for "orphaned children" under Franco. The abuse and neglect these children were subjected to has not been widely known outside of Spain. With powerful vignettes (focusing on a single boy) Carlos Giménez shows us what happens when children are left at the mercy of the state without ethical oversight.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,288 reviews395 followers
December 6, 2019
Spain was not a pretty place during the reign of General Franco, especially for his opposition. This graphic novel describes the plight of their orphaned children, like the author himself, Carlos Giménez. He recounts numerous vignettes, in various church-run schools, where kids were routinely abused, physically and mentally and starved. Unfortunately, the stories were too similar, one to the next, and utterly depressing in respect of the nasty things adults do to children in their care. Also, the boys all looked alike, which makes it hard to differentiate them as well.
Profile Image for Wayne McCoy.
3,864 reviews22 followers
April 16, 2016
'Paracuellos, Volume 1' by Carlos Giménez is a staggeringly difficult graphic novel to read. The stories are tough to fathom. The fact that they are true makes this an extraordinarily powerful work.

The stories take place during Franco's reign in Spain. With a grown up population fallen in battle or executed or imprisoned, the children are left in the "care" of Church-run "homes" like Paracuellos. One of the children in the stories is young Carlos Giménez. Given little to eat or drink, the children rely on the rules of savagery in a place where punishment is strict and sometimes given out unmercifully. The adults are garish cartoons as they spout religion and political propaganda. Some of the kids are lucky enough to have family that occasionally can visit and bring food. The rest of the children are left to beg for scraps.

Granted, there are moments of humor in this grim place. That would be one of the only ways to survive such a thing. We see bullies get payback when they move to other schools, and a young boy saving to buy his favorite comic book series.

Each chapter takes place over 1 or 2 pages. Some of the stories and characters are linked. There are other schools besides Paracuellos featured. All seem pretty horrible.

This is a testament of survival in the face of pretty horrible circumstances. I'm glad I finally got to read this award winning comic in a reprint format.

I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Diamond Book Distributors, IDW Publishing, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this graphic novel.
Profile Image for Stewart Tame.
2,304 reviews90 followers
April 8, 2017
After the Spanish Civil War, there were many children left orphaned. The Fascists set up what eventually became known as Obra Nacional de Auxilio Social (National Works of Social Aid), basically a system of orphanages, though not all children were parentless. Some were simply the victims of familial poverty--their parents were unable to provide for their care, or imprisoned. Paracuellos is a series of stories of orphanage life. Giménez avows that all incidents depicted in the book are 100% true, though not all happened to him personally. It is a testament to the resilience of youth that any of them came through the experience so relatively unscathed. Corporal punishment, hunger, neglect, mental cruelty. There are relatively idyllic moments, true, but for the most part, this book is fairly bleak. Giménez is a superb cartoonist with a real gift for facial expressions. He draws like a hybrid of Wally Wood and Jack Davis. The stories are understated. He doesn't feel the need to preach, letting events speak for themselves. While this book is, at times, emotionally harrowing, it's a shining example of the comics art. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Maxine.
1,249 reviews42 followers
April 2, 2016
In February 1936, Spain elected a Republican government supported by parties on the left. In July of the same year, a military uprising of the right began led by General Francisco Franco and supported by the fascist governments of Germany and Italy. The Civil War lasted until 1939, ending with Franco’s victory. The death toll is estimated to have been approximately 500,000 not counting deaths from malnutrition, starvation and illnesses related to the war. Franco’s Nationalists would hold power until his death in 1975.

As a result of the war and the government’s totalitarian policies, many children were left orphaned or abandoned and were placed in Social Aid Homes. The aim of these homes was to produce ‘good’ citizens loyal to the state. Carlos Gimenez was one of those children. After Franco’s death in 1975, he began recording his memories of those days but in comic book form, an act of extreme bravery given the continued dangers of criticizing the Regime. The result is a powerful, occasionally humorous but extremely heart wrenching picture of what life was like in these homes. The children were starved, beaten, and served a daily dose of propaganda wrapped in religious platitudes by sadistic ‘carers’. The story is historically accurate as Gimenez refused to soften the account to make it more palatable. Eventually, he wrote and drew six volumes to tell his story; this is a review of Paracuellos Vol. 1.

This graphic novel is not meant only as an uplifting story of the human spirit transcending evil - the deprivations and abuses these children were forced to endure are heartbreaking made more so because they are told by a survivor. This is Gimenez’ honest telling of his own story and this honesty makes it at once painful to read but important to understand. Not all of the children or even many of them behave in heroic ways - many are bullies and snitches, willing to turn others in for the smallest infractions to gain the smallest of rewards. Yet, despite this, they still often act like children, inventing games and amusements and always holding out hope that their families will come to rescue them.

The use of the comic form to tell such a powerful true tale may seem counterintuitive. It doesn’t elicit ‘healing’ tears the way a prose telling might nor does it produce the kind of intellectually objective response that a straight relaying of history would. Rather it demands a more immediate visceral response about the horrors of life in a totalitarian state for its most vulnerable members as well as offering a warning about the dangers of ignoring the lessons of history.

The story does end on a surprisingly hopeful note. In a world where friendship is frowned on, and deprivation, violence and spying are constants,Gimenz shows how even seemingly small acts of defiance and bravery can have huge positive and lasting effect.

A very high recommendation from me.

With thanks to Netgalley and IDW Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,618 reviews478 followers
March 6, 2016
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

The digital edition I received via Netgalley was very hard to read; however, it was well worth the time.
This is one of those comics that prove that comics are simply more than a medium. It chronicles the lives of young children who are missing a parent or parents due to the Spanish Civil War. It is Dickens, basically.
Profile Image for Laura.
2,701 reviews81 followers
February 27, 2016
What is the word the comes to me, if I were to tell you about this book? Disturbing. Deeply disturbing.

This is the autobiographical story of the cartoonist who had to go to a "children's home" in the 1950s. This was when Spain was ruled by Franco, and the "homes" were places to torture the children, and make them obey. There was absolutely no love there.

Carlos does not pull any punches. He shows all the gore and horror he experienced. From being forced to sleep in the sun, in summer, to only getting one glass of water a day. The children were tortured by their keepers, called guardians, and the children tortured each other.

It is not a book for children. It needs to be read, however, to be witnessed, to be read, to see what happened to those children. Like the stories of the girls of the magdalen laundry in Ireland, these were children that society had abandoned, or could not care for, and so the people taking care of them didn't really care if they lived or died.

Why, if this is so moving, did I only rate this as a four, instead of a five? Because I had trouble telling the characters apart. Minor nit-pick, but it was hard to tell the bully from the author, from, anyone. I wish he had made the boys more distinctive looking.

Apparently the printed version will have a forward by Will Eisner, which I presume he wrote when this volume came out in Spain, since he died ten years ago. This was not included in the galley, so I have no idea what he said in praise.

sample pages:
 photo Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.39.49 PM_zpsr6epsutk.png

 photo Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.34.27 PM_zpsjmfdreor.png

If you want to see what happened to the throw-away children of Spain under Franco, this is a very good book for that. If you want light reading, run, very quickly away. If you want humor, this is very grim.

Thanks to Netgalley for supplying this book so I could give an honest review.
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,906 reviews5 followers
March 23, 2016
More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

Paracuellos is a stunning achievement - a book of humor on the surface covering the true pathos and heartbreak underneath. The drawing style feels like something out of a vintage Mad Magazine but gives us a story of deprivation and hardship from the point of view of orphans during Franco era (1960s) Spain. Told at a dangerous time (1970s) when the author could have been put to death for what he was (almost) saying, the comics are a work of genius and subtlety, telling the tale through humor and gentle observations. It's a rare work that makes the reader both laugh and cry at the same time. And it is important historical reading as well.

The comics were originally published weekly in a magazine in the format of many small panels covering a full page. Although the panels are small, the art is clean and easy to follow, for the most part. Each panel tells a bit of the story of the orphans but mostly follows the author himself as a child in that situation. Almost every page has a humorous view of the situation but it is very easy to read between the lines to understand what was really happening to these despised children at the time.

The work here is truly exceptional. It's also startling - almost heartbreaking to see the spin the kids put on their situations in order to survive. Paracuellos is a graphic novel that you cannot read and be unaffected; yet it isn't so heavy as to cast a pall of pervasive depression, either. Carlos Gimenez truly was a genius at his craft and we have much to be thankful for that he channeled his memoirs through this inimitable illustrative format. Highest recommendations. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Evilblacksheep.
82 reviews5 followers
March 2, 2016
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Well, this is not the kind of comic book that will make you laugh to tears or give you warm fuzzy feelings, let's be clear. This one will more punch you in the guts and leave you horrified. Yet it's one of the best and most interesting comic book/graphic novel I've ever read, and I read a lot of them.

In this autobiographic book, the author takes you to the 'homes' for kids, during the 50s, in Franco's Spain. Some things will make you smile, for sure, but most of the time it'll slap you in the face with what was the reality like back then for those kids.

I definitely would recommend it as I ended up wanting to read more of it, just don't pick it on a day you're trying to cheer yourself up.
Profile Image for Myrthe.
170 reviews8 followers
April 6, 2016
This was hard to get through: the format wasn't optimal and, well, the story isn't the kind you read to relax. This wasn't happy, it was disturbing and horrible yet so, so good. I wasn't a big fan of the art, but the story itself makes up for that.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for The Laughing Man.
286 reviews50 followers
June 19, 2017
Reading this comic crushed my soul, had no idea what those little kids had to go through to all those years in those concentration camps they call homes... So many crimes went unpunished...
Profile Image for Blue.
1,129 reviews43 followers
February 9, 2016
Paracuellos Volume 1 collects Carlos Gimenez's autobiographical graphic stories about the years he spent in orphanages in Franco's Spain. From the stories, the political aspirations of the regime and the people who run the child welfare institutions are made very clear, but very little of that seems to matter to the children, who are mostly concerned with food to eat, water to drink, and getting out. There is some serious abuse depicted in these pages. The adults in charge of the children are often neglectful, cruel and violent. Very few adults, often those not directly in charge of the children but have contact with them, like the gardener and the fruit man, escape the harsh criticism of Gimenez's memories of this horrendous time in his childhood. Though most of the stories are dark and hopeless with horror drawn right into the faces of the children in many panels, there is a bit of humor and hope sprinkled here and there; there are Mafalda moments where the children get the best of the adults, moments when friendships are made and lessons learned, food shared and heroics imagined.

The NetGalley copy I received lacked an introduction that might put all of this in better historical context, both the child welfare system under Franco and the importance of this graphic memoir after Franco, both for the medium and for the greater body of literature about life under the regime. I did wonder if Paracuellos was chosen on purpose, as Paracuellos de Jarama was the cite of a massacre during the Spanish Civil War where the Republicans (lefties, anti-Francos) executed many prisoners (civilian and military prisoners, presumed Nationalists, pro-Francos; the death toll is disputed, but the fact that the massacre took place is widely accepted, it seems.) I also wondered why these children were taken to these homes, while they had family. It seemed that they could easily starve at home with some relative, even with their parents and brothers and sisters, rather than in some home under the strict and cruel rule of some fascist administrators. Only a few of the children are depicted as not having any relatives to take care of them. There is a lot of poverty, and some children's parents are sick with TB, etc. but they all seem to have relatives. This made me think that some were sent due to "poor morals" or some such excuse by the regime, rather than the families actually giving them up, but I might be wrong about this.

Gimenez's drawing style is detailed and veers towards horror with distorted faces, devilishly sharp teeth, and spiky shout balloons. Earlier stories have simple story arcs, while later ones tend to have several inter-dependent arcs following different characters.

Recommended for those who like milk, those who hate milk, those who have lost a ball over a wall, and those who like Dickens.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Siina.
Author 34 books19 followers
February 28, 2016
Paracuellos shows us a very different Spain and sometimes it's hard to remember that this wasn't so long ago. No wonder the comic has won many prizes for being one of the first ones to tell about what happened to the orphan kids under Franco's rule, and it's not pretty I can tell you that. Giménez himself is one of those children. Basically the comic presents us different kids in different church-run schools, where the kids had to stay. The kids were abused, malnourished and disgraced. It was hard to read this knowing all of it has happened. There's hardly any leisure time in the comic and it takes time to read the comic. Mostly my problem was that there's too much text and nothing else really happening in the panels. The boys tend to look alike, which makes it hard to differentiate them and you don't really get attached to anyone, which is probably a good thing.

The comic is emotionally heavy and the art looks like a bit from MAD, which brings some lightness to the comic. The line art is smudgy and looks somewhat dated, but the comic is old, so it's understandable. I wish the comic would have colors though. Now it's kind of hard to follow the story, since the art isn't easy to the eye. It takes time to understand what is happening in the panels and colors could've helped with that. The panel structure is heavy and the panels are tiny, which doesn't work. A comic like this would need bigger art. The topic is important in its nastiness and presents us a world to which we closed our eyes. It's scary. It really is.
Profile Image for Micah.
Author 3 books5 followers
June 28, 2016
If you'd asked me, hey, how interested would you be in reading a documentary book about the daily life of children of political prisoners & targets of Franco's post-Spanish Civil War Falangist government in a state-run group home? I probably would have said, meh, not so much. Once I started, however, it was difficult to put down. The cruelties inflicted pale in comparison to neighboring fascist governments treatment of children, but have a noticeably sadistic bent in their application: taking not just orphaned children but those from families the government wanted to send a message to, forced Catholic conversion (plays out like many mission-school-for-the-heathens scenarios), government program indoctrination, starvation, subjugation, constant random violence, and how the children begin to adopt these techniques against each other as well. Really powerful, simple graphic story telling. Well worth the read and getting past a Meh reaction.
Profile Image for Michael.
3,025 reviews
December 3, 2019
via NYPL - Goddamn outstanding. Gimenez tells the stories of his time in the "Social Aid Homes" for war orphans after Franco won the Spanish Civil War. Every page is designed to break your heart. Masterful cartooning, a little childhood whimsy, and a whole lot of human tragedy make for an unforgettable reading experience.
The book was so moving, so infuriating, so powerfully drawn, that I had to own a copy. And reread it. It only gets more intense and more tragic with a second reading. I can't stop thinking that my own country is treating children this way simply because they came from another country, and I crushes my soul that we've learned so little about decency in our history.
Profile Image for Answer.
20 reviews
September 11, 2016
Paracuellos is, no doubt, a work of outstanding workmanship. The graphic memoir tells the stories of children living at Social Aid "Homes" run by the State and the church during Franco's regime, as experienced and/or witnessed by the author himself. Some of the children were orphans, some others were taken away from their family as their parents were considered failing to meet "the moral conditions" set out by the regime.

There are bits in the stories which will make you smile (the innocent conversations between the children, for example), but this book was not meant to be entertaining. It was meant to document the heartbreaking stories of malnutrition, mistreatment, torture, separation and loneliness, as well as humiliating punishments experienced by the children.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,789 reviews61 followers
February 7, 2016
Oh my god. I almost didn’t get through this.

With sequential art and prose, Carlos Giménez portrays life in orphanages during the Spanish Civil War in the middle of the 20th century.

It is heartbreaking. And horrifying.

The picture Giménez paints shows how these children experienced life. The awful conditions they experienced.

Being “taken care” of by people spouting prayers and hymns.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Worth reading, as difficult as it is to get through.

Thanks to NetGalley, Diamond Distributors, and IDW Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Derek Royal.
Author 13 books71 followers
April 2, 2016
I enjoyed this book, another in the EuroComics series that IDW is putting out. This volume includes translations of the first two collections of Paracuellos originally published in Spain. You can see a marked style shift between the first and second halves, both in terms of the format and the narrative progression. This is a heartrending text, although Giménez falls prey to maudlin displays or melodrama. We reviewed this on a recent episode of The Comics Alternative: http://comicsalternative.com/episode-...
Profile Image for Bradley R. Homer.
26 reviews5 followers
December 2, 2016
One word. "POWERFUL". This graphic novel was quite a page turner to read and get through. I can only hope that this will someday be turned into an animation cartoon because it deserves it! Going into his world and him going through this with actual events you can definitely tell that his heart and soul went into these comics.
865 reviews6 followers
May 12, 2016
This was a moving read about the plight of the children in fascist Spain. Carlos Gimenez does a great job in recounting these events of a past he lived through.

Rating 5 out of 5
Profile Image for Mateen Mahboubi.
1,248 reviews15 followers
February 26, 2017
A heartbreaking slice of often forgotten history which unfortunately was fairly prevalent in many different countries.
Profile Image for Manish.
794 reviews46 followers
December 19, 2019
This wasnt an easy read for me. The children orphaned and abandoned by the Spanish Civil War were mostly raised in State run institutions aligned with the Catholic Church. Gimenez grew up in such an institution and Paracuellos is an autobiographical work centered on incidents from his time there.

It was simply heartbreaking to read some of the stories around their despair, torture and sheer cruelty of the caretakers. What's astounding is to wonder how Gimenez managed to bring all of this together without displaying any sign of rancour. The critical essay evaluating the value of this work as a part of remembering past wrongs was also an important read!
Profile Image for Nick Smith.
74 reviews5 followers
March 11, 2018
Obviously a lot of skill went into this work - not to mention a lot of terrible experiences. But the episodes become numbing and rote after a while, as you can be sure any hint of something good happening to one of the children is going to be crushed 2-4 pages later. Still, Gimenez is an incredible cartoonist and well respected for this and other works. I can both appreciate the monumental task he is undertaking here while proclaiming myself uninterested in reading further.
Profile Image for Sasha Boersma.
821 reviews31 followers
June 7, 2017
The stories in this book are emotionally heavy. Exploring life in the social "homes" in Spain in the 40s and 50s. Astonishing what was considered care for children during that time (which if I understand correctly, was when Spain was run by a dictatorship under the label of communism).

Beautifully done, buy a very difficult read.
Profile Image for Marsha Altman.
Author 16 books127 followers
September 28, 2017
A brutal book about the author's childhood in one of the "homes" set up in Fraco's fascist Spain for children with parents who were ill, in prison, or dead. I haven't encountered a comic so moving about the brutality of life since Maus. Recommended.
Profile Image for Gabriela Francisco.
462 reviews10 followers
February 1, 2022
"History (is) an act of reconstruction - memory as a public process of reconstructing voices in which no voice must have the last word." ~ from Carmen Moreno-Nuno's afterword

This is an incredible graphic collection in itself, but the true story behind the book is even more important.

Author/artist Carlos Gimenez of PARACUELLOS was brought up for eight years in a Spanish state home in the early 1950's, where the children of the victims of fascist dictator Francisco Franco were brought up. This is no easy read, as the terrible events portray abuse of every kind, ranging from starvation to physical assault. In this social home, priests and nuns and government officials used the tools embraced wholeheartedly by Hitler and Mussolini, and all fascist states: violence and disinformation.

But it isn't all heartbreak. A few individuals stood apart for their refusal to conform to the daily evils all around, and Gimenez gratefully records the self-sacrifice and goodness of the gardener and the villagers whose decency and humanity helped them survive.

When Franco died, Gimenez finally decided to record the trauma of his past, for future generations to learn. This went beyond art, as the prevailing attitude of that time was 'forgive and forget.' But Gimenez knew that historic amnesia meant future reenactments, and persevered despite rejections from most publishers, and even death-threats!

Memory and History are precious precisely because they are social constructs, in the sense that there has to be a collective and ongoing effort to revive it, to help keep it alive. We live in dark times, when our country's collective amnesia is strategically organized thru Tiktok and armies of paid trolls, with political advertisements based on lies, while men with guns enter universities and confiscate books that reveal the truth of the past. (For more information, go to https://handsoffourlibraries.crd.co/ )

It happened in Spain. It has happened here in the Philippines, once before. Let us not permit it to happen again.

"Carlos Gimenez teaches his audience that the history he lived through is part of our collective history, and as such is common patrimony for us all. Because the Franco regime suppressed knowledge of these events, Spaniards had to learn all over again who we were and where we came from, starting by giving life again to that which the regime wanted to remain dead." - from Antonio Martin's introduction
Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.