Lisette lives in Normandy, France, a beautiful little town where "apple trees grow near the sea, and cows give the sweetest milk." But now the boots of German soldiers go click-clack! down the cobblestone streets, and tanks with big guns pierce the sky. Lisette and her family are hungry, cold, and always scared. She prays for an angel to help them. And on a moonlit night full of the roar and furor of planes overhead, she looks to the skies for some sign that the world will be right again.
As seen through a child's eyes, this dramatic, heartfelt story about the 1944 D-day invasion gives poignant expression to the conviction that even in the darkest hours, one can reach out and find a light.
Paintings by Max Ginsburg
Grade 2-4-Lisette's idyllic life in Normandy changes drastically when the Nazis occupy France. Food and fuel become scarce and, when the child outgrows her favorite dress, there is no cloth for a new one. The radio her family secretly listens to brings encouraging messages, but as time passes, hope wanes. Then, one night, her brother wakens her to hear the roaring of planes and they see stars (parachutes) falling from the sky with an angel (paratrooper) attached to each of them. One lands in the garden and the children help him hide. After giving her brother a chocolate bar, the airman escapes. With Liberation, Maman will make the parachute he left behind into a dress for Lisette. At one point, a storekeeper is arrested for hiding goods for friends and neighbors, and Papa tells his daughter that there is nothing they can do to help. This moral dilemma is not dealt with and is an upsetting moment in an otherwise reassuring tale that balances a child's beliefs and an adult's understandings. Ginsburg's paintings beautifully interpret the text. He depicts a vivid contrast between free France-bucolic, blue-sky scenes-and an occupied country in which dark grays and shadows predominate. As with other picture books about World War II, the audience is the question. This is a young child's story for older children. It is a worthy addition to the literature, sharing the limitations and possibilities of the best of these books.
Louise L. Sherman, formerly at Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 2-4. This glowing picture book for older children is pure nostalgia. A French woman remembers back to 1942, when she was six years old, and the Germans invaded her village on the Normandy coast. Before they come, life is beautiful: words and bucolic oil paintings show that everyone is always smiling and happy. Then the Occupation brings blood-red flags on the streets and barbed wire near the beach. The roses and dancing butterflies on the girls' favorite dress fade away. She prays for an angel to save them, and after three years an angel does land in their farmyard: he's an American paratrooper. The good guys defeat the enemy, and paradise is restored "in a beautiful land." The best war-at-home stories, such as Anita Lobel's No Pretty Pictures (1998), get beyond this simplistic sentimental view of innocence lost and regained. Still, there are very few children's books about what it was like for ordinary gentile families when the Germans came. The exciting GI rescue will have special meaning for kids whose own service veteran family members--like the author's father-in-law--were there. Hazel Rochman
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