Genevieve's War

240p. Holiday House. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823438006.
Gr 4–6—It's 1939. Genevieve and her brother are spending the summer on their grandmother's farm in Alsace, France, near the German border on the eve of World War II. It's Genevieve's first time meeting her grandmother, whom she finds difficult. It's a precarious time to be in France, with the prospect of war looming. To further complicate things, Genevieve has a ticket on what is said to be the last boat leaving for the United States. Despite her reservations about her grandmother, she impulsively decides to stay with her, without realizing what her life will become. Shortly afterward, German soldiers occupy the area. Everyone must go by German names and speak German, and Genevieve and her family are forced to house a Nazi soldier. The upcoming years are a transformative time for both Genevieve and her grandmother as they struggle to survive and help others throughout the war. This companion to Lily's Crossing is best suited for strong readers. Orienting to the politically charged setting and understanding the convoluted set of circumstances that have placed Genevieve in the middle of a war make the first section of the novel a little overwhelming. By the second half, the book becomes more plot-focused and easier to follow. The Nazi occupation and looming uncertainty about who can be trusted result in a suspenseful read. The narrative spans the whole length of the war, and Giff skillfully takes Genevieve from an impulsive 13-year-old to a thoughtful and compassionate young woman; there is crossover appeal to a YA audience. A basic familiarity with the Second World War and with the Alsace region, or some research while reading, will deepen children's comprehension of the work.
VERDICT A well-crafted look at how World War II impacted civilians, with great potential for classroom use.

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