Sunday, January 9, 2011

Resistance Book 1 by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

First off, I'm really intrigued by this cover art.  I think it sets us up brilliantly for what's to come. At first glance the cover seems comical, like a political cartoon--a faceless Nazi, all unknowing, about to get bonked on the helmet by some impish child's toy slingshot.  But a full view (the art wraps around the back) shows us Paul Tessier, one of the child protagonists of Resistance, getting ready to release the slingshot, a look of ferocious determination on his face.  His grim expression immediately sombers the mood of the image, recalling us to the truth--Paul may have a slingshot, but his target has a gun and won't hesitate to use it.  He may be the biblical David to the Nazi Goliath, but the odds are heavily weighted against him.  Resistance may cost Paul his life.

Resistance Book 1 is the first of a trilogy of graphic books for children set in France during the Nazi occupation.  It centres around Paul and Marie Tessier, young siblings whose father is being held as a prisoner of war by the German army.  When their Jewish friend Henri's parents are taken by the Nazis while he happens to be away from home, they conspire to hide him in the wine cellars of their family's vineyards.  When Paul discovers that their farmhand Jacques is a member of a resistance group, he begs to join, and the group decides that Paul and Marie's youth might be an asset.  The two children and their older sister end up taking a terrifying journey to Paris to reunite Henri with his rescued parents.

Resistance is a thoughtful book that reads fluidly and is full of telling detail.  From the paranoid secrecy of the time to the squabbles brought on by fear and tension, it's all very believable.  Paul is an artist, and his sketchbook gives us additional insight into his feelings as the story progresses. The author's note at the end reminds us not to make hasty judgments.

" Living in a country that has never been is hard to imagine the pressures people faced.  These pressures were both external (physical threats, lack of food, disappearing neighbours) and internal (fear, family loyalty, national pride, belief systems) and they influenced the choices people made.  What seems obvious to us now was probably not at all obvious to anyone then...Each French citizen...had their own story, their own personal concerns to weigh, risks to assess with no idea of how things would turn out, or even what the next day would bring.  Sometimes [their] choices were regrettable, sometimes noble.  All were difficult."

Defiance, the second book in the Resistance trilogy, is coming out July 2011.

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