Genevieve’s War

Patri­cia Reil­ly Giff; Bec­ca Stadt­lander, illus.
  • Review
By – January 4, 2018

Genevieve’s War by Patri­cia Reil­ly Giff; Bec­ca Stadt­lander, illus. | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

At the end of the sum­mer of 1939, thir­teen-year-old Genevieve decides to stay in Alsace, France, where’s she’s been stay­ing with her grand­moth­er, rather than return home to New York. She’s reluc­tant to see the sum­mer end and loathe to lose the warm rela­tion­ships she has built — but she also has a gut feel­ing that her inde­pen­dent-seem­ing grand­moth­er may need her sup­port and help. Unbe­knownst to Genevieve, her broth­er, André, has made a sim­i­lar deci­sion. He has­n’t gone back to New York either, but has joined the French Resistance.

Life changes dra­mat­i­cal­ly for Genevieve and her grand­moth­er when the Nazis arrive in Alsace and one of them com­man­deers a room in their house. Genevieve and her grand­moth­er have to ride out the war under ten­sion and phys­i­cal dan­ger, and Genevieve finds brav­ery and courage when she must.

Renowned author Patri­cia Reil­ly Giff does a won­der­ful job of bring­ing this sto­ry to life. The read­er learns about the hard­ships of life under occu­pa­tion, and the dif­fi­cult choic­es the peo­ple of France faced dur­ing World War II. The back­drop is vivid­ly paint­ed, and Genevieve’s dilem­ma as she ques­tions who she can trust in life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions is evoca­tive­ly por­trayed. Each char­ac­ter turns out to be more com­plex than they first appear; the pro­tag­o­nist dis­cov­ers that peo­ple need to be giv­en a chance to prove what they are made of in times of extreme stress.

As the sto­ry unfolds, the read­er watch­es Genevieve grow and mature, and the lev­el of ten­sion through­out keeps the read­er’s inter­est high. Although the book con­tains min­i­mal Jew­ish con­tent, it presents con­text about the Nazi takeover of Europe from a fresh and often-over­looked perspective.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 to 12.

Deb­bie Fed­er is cur­rent­ly the Direc­tor of the LRC at Ida Crown Jew­ish Acad­e­my in Chica­go. She has her Mas­ters in Library and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence from Domini­can Uni­ver­si­ty. She has spent more than ten years intro­duc­ing chil­dren and young adults to lit­er­a­ture and infor­ma­tion lit­er­a­cy at schools and pub­lic libraries. She is the author of Jel­ly Bean’s Art Muse­um Adven­ture and is hon­ored to have been a mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

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