Monday, April 19, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 75 (4/19) -- Resistance, Book 1 by Jablonski and Purvis

They used to say "War is not safe for children and other living things." Of course, they were dirty hippies, and they kept trying to get us to drop out and "live on the land, man," among other unpleasant activities, so we might not want to give too much weight to their views. But war is also hell, as some other people used to say, and hell is for children (at least according to Pat Benatar). It's an eternal conundrum. I suppose, but let's see if this book clears up any of it.

Resistance -- written by Carla Jablonski and illustrated by Leland Purvis -- is a war story for children, a graphic novel set in France in 1942 and focusing on three pre-teens in a small town somewhere in the wine-growing countryside of Vichy France: Paul Tessier, his younger sister Marie, and their friend Henri Levy. Henri is Jewish, which hadn't really made a difference until this point -- but there are suddenly more German soldiers about, and Henri's parents disappear swiftly and mysteriously. Paul and Marie decide to hide Henri in the caves for storing wine barrels, and start thinking about fighting back against the Germans.

From there, they swiftly run into the real Resistance and become part of it, passing secret messages and sketching German troops. Towards the end of this book, the three children -- accompanied by Peter's older sister, Sylvie -- are on their way to Paris to get Henri to something like safety.

This book doesn't finish the story, of course -- note that "Book 1" in the title -- but it does close out the immediate action. It's very much a historical story for younger readers -- making the Germans nasty but essentially faceless, and keeping their real crimes and the actual horrors of war off-page in the name of maintaining focus on the young heroes -- and it's very successful on that level, with the kids talking through their emotions believably and doing no more than is plausible for children their age.

So far, Resistance is fine but not particularly special -- there are a thousand pure-prose novels for young readers about WWII at least this good, and a number of books (starting with one girl's diary) that are much better at conveying the sense of what it was like during those times. Resistance does bring a decent version of that story into a comics form, and it is entirely worthy to sit on that shelf -- and, perhaps, it might bring some reluctant readers into this story.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Okkervil River - So Come Back, I Am Waiting
via FoxyTunes

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