CAPTAIN ROSALIE

Book Cover

A young child undertakes a “secret
mission” while her father is away at war.

First published from a French
original in the 2015 collection The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War but presented here in a small, neatly formatted
volume with new illustrations, the tale features 5½-year-old Rosalie, who
spends her days at the back of the one-room school while her mother is off at
work. The older children and the teacher, a veteran who’s lost an arm, think
she’s just dreaming and drawing pictures, but she’s actually engaged in a
mission: “One day I’ll be awarded a medal for this. It’s already gleaming deep
within me.” The nature of that mission comes clear one day when she sneaks home
and discovers that she can finally read for herself the letters her father had
been sending from the front—but instead of the optimistic, loving missives her
mother had been “reading” to her, she discovers them to be dark cries of
anguish and despair. That very day a final letter arrives…from the Ministry of
War, with a medal enclosed. Rather than end with that crushingly ironic twist,
though, de Fombelle leaves Rosalie smiling, through her tears, at a friend and
regarding the medal not as a dead thing but something alive. The bright red
hair of Rosalie and her mother seems to glow in the gray, wintry light of
Arsenault’s village scenes, likewise offering hints of life and warmth even in
the face of terrible loss. Everyone in view is white.

A spare tale likely to engender
deep, complex responses. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

kirkusreviews.com

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