Al Jaffee's Mad Life (Mary-Lou Weisman) - Harpercollins Publishers itbooks - 2010 - 226 pages

89-year-old Al (nee Abraham) Jaffee spent most of his formative years in a shtetl (Yiddish for "little town") in Lithuania with his mother and three younger brothers.  His father Morris and uncle Harry were able to rescue the boys before the Nazi murderers reached their community.  Author Weisman provides an excellent account of these days (that cover the first half of the biography) with her simple but elegant writing style.  The dust jacket promises "over seventy original illustrations" but I counted at least 105 drawings (mostly in color) specifically made for this book by the author/artist (Jaffee) of Mad magazine articles that have appeared in 456 issues (to date) from 1955 to the present.  There are also 30+ examples of past drawings and a few photographs including a classic photo of Al will contemporary Will Elder (then known as Wolfie Eisenberg) who were in the first class (1936) of the Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art.  Mad creator, Harvey Kurtzman was three years behind Al & Will at the same school.  The biography is the story of a man who succeeded in the world of art in spite of tremendous obstacles but also one who never lost the fondness for his Jewish heritage.  Mad fanatics will be amazed by this book that can also be appreciated by those who have never opened a copy of the magazine. [JAM 10/28/2010]