In 1940 Aube and her parents, a French poet and a painter, were on the run from the Nazis in occupied France, until they were rescued and given temporary refuge in the Villa Air-Bel in Vichy France.
The Nazis were rounding up and deporting Jews, intellectuals, journalists, writers, artists, and anyone suspected of anti-Nazi activities. Varian Fry, an American journalist, and his French assistant, Danny Bénédite, had established a clandestine organization that arranged escapes. In Villa Air-Bel, Aube’s family and the likes of Max Ernst, Victor Serge, and Marc Chagall were kept safe while arrangements were made to smuggle them out of France. The childlike third-person narration describes the various subterfuges: a hidden radio, smuggling outgoing messages in toothpaste tubes, even a concealed cow—all secrets that must be kept to ensure their safety and the success of the mission. Young Aube must also find her own hiding place and practice using it. But there is also a great deal of laughter, games, and music to keep up their spirits and fight against fear. Strauss, Bénédite’s great-great-niece, recounts the events from Aube’s innocent, hopeful point of view, employing a matter-of-fact tone and placing the historical events in a context that young readers might grasp. Leonhard’s softly drawn, purple-hued illustrations perfectly capture Aube’s emotions. Endnotes verify the events with facts, photos, and biographical information.
Gripping and intense. (Picture book. 7-11)