War is raging in Sofarende, and it will have profound and devastating effects on 12-year-old Mathilde. No one is safe.
When children are tested to determine their suitability for war-related service, Mathilde is selected and sent to Faetre, a secret location where no communication with family or friends is allowed. Children there solve intricate problems with results immediately applied to the war effort. Mathilde's skills are different; her sole assignment is to develop a connection with Rainer, a young Tyssian POW—blond, blue-eyed, and white, just like her. Her empathy and kindness lead to a sharing of their mutual sadness, loneliness, and fear, through paintings of horror and beautiful peace, when words no longer suffice. When Faetre is abandoned, a compassionate decision puts her in even greater danger, but readers will be relieved to know that a sequel is planned. LaFleur creates an alternate, Europe-like landscape with an aggressor nation waging war on its neighbors. Names and descriptions contain just enough hints of a different language base to maintain the illusion of otherness. Mathilde is timid and strong, childlike and complex, vividly narrating her story in great detail, encompassing myriad characters and events, all without censoring her fears and confusion about the nature of war and a world turned upside down, while somehow still managing to believe something better is possible.
Deeply emotional, compelling, and brilliant. (Fiction. 10-14)