Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #55: Defiance and Victory by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

These are two more books that sat, unloved, on my shelves for too long. Defiance and Victory are the back two-thirds of a trilogy of graphic novels for younger readers about the French Resistance during WW II, written by novelist Carla Jablonski and drawn by comics pro Leland Purvis. The trilogy -- the first book was Resistance, naturally, and I covered it here around the time it was published -- came out yearly from 2010-12, in the usual way of publishing, and I should have read and commented on them a number of years ago.

But should-haves don't get anything done by themselves, so here we are in 2018, and I've finally found the time to check in on the three Tessier children and their lives in some town -- I don't think it ever gets a name in either of these books -- in Vichy France in the summers of 1943 and 1944, as the tide of Nazi Germany reaches its height and then starts to ebb back.

These are books suitable for young readers, so, while there is some implied fraternization with the occupying Germans, there's nothing that unambiguously suggests any Frenchwoman actually fucked them. Similarly, we hear about a neighboring village killed in reprisal for an attack on a munitions train in Defiance, but there's only one strategic on-panel death, at the climax of Victory. Mostly, this is the story of events that are very dangerous, but all turn out right for the Tessier family.

Oh, sure, they have to make it through the war, but they all do. The Tessiers survived WW II with some bumps, but were always on the right side of history and the readers' sympathies, doing interesting things and standing up for justice just as much as doesn't get anyone stood up against a wall and shot. This trilogy is entirely suitable for children young enough or sheltered enough that Anne Frank's Diary would have too much sexuality and too unhappy an ending for them.

That's too cruel of me, though: these are perfectly good historical graphic novels for younger readers. I just tend to think the age these are aimed at -- probably middle school -- is old enough for some more reality. School boards and local librarians probably disagree with me, though. Jablonski does try to give more context in her text pieces at the beginning and end of each volume -- pseudo-comics pages lettered to match the balloons -- but, even there, she does elide a whole lot of atrocities and horrors.

Again, these books are aimed at kids, and they do that job pretty well. And those kids will learn the darker truths eventually.

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