The inhabitants of a village in the mountains of Vichy France quietly carry out clandestine activities as they rescue and hide Jews.
Adults, teens, and even younger children work independently and in carefully constructed networks of established residents and Jewish refugees. “Everyone in this town had secrets.” Refugees are hidden on outlying farms. Youngsters attend school and live in boardinghouses. All are given beautifully forged identification papers, many made by Jean-Paul, who has forged several versions of his own papers. Some have joined the Maquis, disguised as Boy Scouts. Céleste conveys secret messages; Philippe leads refugees to safe houses and to the Swiss border while others create diversions that lead authorities astray. Ten-year-old Jules notices and remembers everything. He maintains an odd, provocative relationship with the French policeman Perdant, openly questioning him about the morality of his insistence on following the orders and laws of the Nazi overseers. The knowledge he gains allows him to provide the others with key information, warnings, and time to get to safety. Each character’s backstory is woven seamlessly into the action. Preus builds suspense and drama by following these brave souls as they take on dangerous tasks, facing arrest, deportation, and, very likely, death if they are caught by the Nazis. Named as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, these characters are based on real people from the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon, and Preus tells their afterstories in a well-researched, comprehensive epilogue.
Deeply emotional, intense, and thought-provoking. (pronunciation guide, list of characters, photos, documents, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-18)