Do you know how children learn best? When their grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and other older family members sit down and tell them about their past. This is what Jackie Minniti has managed to accomplish with this novel – this is a story based on her father’s experience as an American soldier in 1944 while Rennes, France was under Nazi rule and devastated by WWII. He befriended Jacqueline, a very special ten-year-old girl. The story is told from Jacqueline’s perspective. Written for ages 8 to 14, Jackie’s character of Jacqueline can stand in for that great aunt and teach children about that time. They will never forget it.
It begins with Jacqueline’s mother crying from a notice she received. Her husband, Capitaine Jacques Falna, was assumed dead or captured as his plane had been shot down over Lorient. Against all odds, Jackie refuses to believe that he’s dead – she’s sure her father is alive and will eventually make his way home. Within their building, their Jewish neighbors, the Bergiers, are taken quite suddenly by the Nazis. But, the Bergier’s twelve-year-old son, David, was hidden. Jacqueline’s mother took him in and made him memorize his new identity as their cousin in order to keep him safe. When Jacqueline meets the American soldier, she assumes he will help her to find her father.
Jackie Minniti delivers exceptional, heart-warming characters and a suspenseful plot that pulls the reader completely into the story. Besides Jacqueline, her mother, and David, there is also a young woman, Yvonne Jamet, who dates a German soldier, and a tiny stray one-eyed kitten she names Clinoche. Without dwelling on the oppression, Minniti manages to make the reader see the impoverished lifestyle they must endure. Although a historical fiction for younger readers, adults will manage to get caught up in it as well. Rating: 5 out of 5.