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Review: Defiance: Resistance, Book Two

Paul and his sister Marie are still fighting the Germans, but their objectives are not as clear as when they helped sneak their Jewish friend Henri out of occupied France. Now it’s hard to know who to trust. The Resistance folk are split between those who trust the exiled French General Charles de Gaulle and those who think they’re better off working on their own against the Nazis. With German troops taking over the town and Paul and Marie’s own aunt going on dates with the enemy, the children must convince the Resistance forces that they can help, before the family loses the vineyard to the Germans forever.

Defiance: Resistance, Book Two
Written by Carla Jablonski; Illustrated by Leland Purvis
Ages 10-13; Grades 5-8
First Second, July 2011, ISBN 978-1-59643-292-5
124 pages, $16.99

I reviewed Resistance, the first book in Jablonski and Purvis’ series, last year for Graphic Novel Reporter and then donated my copy to my best friend’s classroom library along with a lot of other graphic novels. She and I were both pleasantly surprised when Resistance was the book her fifth graders fought over. They were sucked in by the historical setting and the exciting but realistic action. Now I’m happy that I’ll be able to add the second book to her library, just in time for another class to get caught up in the excitement.

If you somehow missed book one, you can start reading book two without being too lost, as long as you have a passing familiarity with World War II. It’s clear that Paul and Marie live under occupation and that the stress and worry are taking their toll on their family. Each member deals with it in his or her own way. Paul chooses to hang anti-German artwork around the city, a nice way to tie in with the artistic talents he used in the first book. His sister Marie is fearful and uncertain of who to trust, both in power or in her town, but her sharp memory helps her save her brother in the end. Also caught is their older sister Sophie, who is finding that being a young woman is difficult when you are caught between your Resistance fighter boyfriend and a handsome young Nazi soldier.

Purvis’ art is rough-edged, highlighting the harsh lines of his characters’ faces and bringing their worry clearly into focus. The subtle colors provided by Hilary Sycamore breathe life into the settings, both during the day and, more importantly, at night. There is a brief Author’s Note at the end that explains who Charles de Gaulle was and tells why the French and the Allies were ambivalent about working with him, but it doesn’t go into details that needed covering again in book two, such as who Marshal Petain was or why the fleur de lis was de Gaulle’s symbol. This makes portions of the story incomprehensible to new readers and undercuts the effectiveness of the tale.

Overall, however, that is a small quibble in an otherwise fine story. Combine this with Eric Heuvel’s The Search and A Family Secret (both from Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux) for classroom studies on World War II or simply add this to your collection as a strong example of historical fiction that appeals to middle school readers.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © First Second.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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