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  • Village of Scoundrels: Based on a True Story of Courage during WWII by Margi Preus
  • Natalie Berglind

Preus, Margi Village of Scoundrels: Based on a True Story of Courage during WWII; illus. by S. M. Vidaurri. Amulet/Abrams, 2020 [304p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-0897-8 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-61312-507-6 $15.29 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 6-9

It's 1942 in the French village of Les Lauzes, a place so inaccessible that it has become a safe haven for Jews and other groups targeted by the German and their tools in Vichy France. Henni is a teenager using an unfamiliar language and separated from her mother; Jules is a ten-year-old vandal; Phillipe is "the people smuggler," carting Jews on covert operations o Switzerland with fake identities; Céleste carries messages and supplies for the maquis resistance movement; and Jean-Paul is a master forger of fake documents. The tight-knit community is violated by an incompetent young policeman named Inspector Perdant, but he slowly comes to terms with the brutality French Jews face in light of the Nazis and the Vichy regime. This is a quiet, immersive novel with a tight focus on its distinct, well-developed characters based on real people from the historical village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Though Perdant's attempts at empathy seem too little, too late ("Maybe you should get a different job," Jules remarks to him when Perdant hides behind his occupation to justify his actions), Preus crafts a delicate balance of the characters' interweaving tales and the community that bands together to protect its vulnerable population. This book is notable for a French perspective on the effects of antisemitism around the time of World War II and on the Resistance, and it would serve well as a fictional partner to nonfiction such as Freedman's We Will Not Be Silent (BCCB 4/16). An extensive epilogue details the real historical inspiration for each of the characters, the village, and information about concentration camps with pictures; an additional bibliography is marked with age-appropriate resources for further reading. [End Page 222]



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