Julia Billet & Claire Fauvel
HarperCollins, 2020 154 pages
Rachel was sent to a progressive French school outside of Paris to wait out WWII. Here she makes friends and discovers a love of photography. A teacher gives her a camera and she begins to see the world through the lens of a view finder. When the Nazis suspect that Jewish children are staying at the school, Rachel must changer her name to Catherine in order to blend. Things become too dangerous and Rachel, now Catherine, is sent to a strict convent school with another younger student now named Alice. After making a new friend at the local camera store, the new hiding place also becomes compromised and Catherine and Alice are moved to a rural farm and then to another school, and finally they are separated as Catherine moves in with a couple who are working for the resistance. Along the way Catherine makes new friends, and even a potential romance, yet worries about her parents. At last the war ends and Catherine rushes to Paris to try to find them. She reconnects with some folks that she walked the journey with throughout the war, yet some are lost. Through it all, Catherine has documented the terrible war with photos of her experiences and the people she has met, offering a fresh perspective of the world events.
Originally published in France, Billet and Fauvel add a biographical memoir to the current trend that will demonstrate to young readers what life was like for a hidden child during WWII. Based on the experiences of her mother, the book ends with actual photos of the narrator and the original school which she called home. France is a world leader in creating graphic novels and this book lends an air of sophistication compared to the American titles that are considerably more cartoon-like. Printed in full color, American readers will have no trouble being drawn to the book and the compelling action will keep them turning pages. Rachel/Catherine's is a likable character and her courage and resourcefulness proves inspirational. Weaving the many stops along the war journey are Rachel/Catherine's photos. They may inspire readers to also capture the events in their lives in whichever muse speaks to them. Besides the actual photos, the author also includes a map of Rachel/Catherine's journey and historical background to help readers understand the real-life events our narrator is experiencing. I fell into graphic novels after reading Spiegelman's Maus in college. Through this book I realized that storylines of truth and substance can be told through the art of comics. Throughout the years this has continued and it’s wonderful to see this path leading to graphic novels for children. Give to fans of Palacio's White Bird for another graphic hidden-child story.