Terror and irony alike shape a French soldier’s experiences in World War I.
“About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war,” Pierre-Jacques Ober writes. “It was fought by little soldiers like Pierre.” Words literally suit action here, as the original tale is illustrated with antique, battered-looking toy soldiers in period uniforms placed in astonishingly realistic miniature landscapes and photographed close up (with some digital finishing) in subdued natural light. The effect is both eerie and poignant. In the wake of battles that have left fields strewn with corpses, Pierre earns a commendation by leading in six equally exhausted Germans who had actually asked him to take them prisoner—but when Pierre takes two days off to visit his mother at Christmas, upon his return he is sentenced to death for desertion. “None of it makes sense,” he resignedly observes in a last letter to Maman before being marched off with a firing squad. According to the author, the briefly told episode was developed from the pictures rather than the other way around, and it has a generic air that unhelpful closing notes on the project’s motivations and methods do nothing to relieve. Still, Pierre’s comment is timelessly cogent…and the powerfully atmospheric art compels attention.
Riveting, visually at least, and likely to stir strong responses in reflective readers. (map) (Picture book. 8-12)