Village of Scoundrels

Abrams/Amulet. Feb. 2020. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419708978.
Gr 5-8–During World War II, several remote villages in Southern France were home to a community of resistance fighters. Farmers, educators, and clergy all played a part, but this story highlights the daring work of young men and women who forged documents, moved supplies and passed along coded information. For example, one teen created documents that secured his mother’s release from an internment camp. One young woman bicycled for miles to deliver messages and contraband. Some used their Boy Scout training in outdoor survival to spirit refugees, sometimes disguised as troop members, to safe houses or through the arduous journey out of France and into Switzerland. This fascinating story is inspired by actual people and events. It highlights an interesting piece of history but is weakened by the narrative structure. It bounces around various plotlines, robbing each one of the tension that starts to build and causing the story to lose momentum. Extensive back matter helps compensate with information about the people, places, and missions that form the novel’s basis, as well as a comprehensive bibliography including books, documentaries, and links to museum exhibits. There is also a pronunciation guide to the names of the French characters and locations.
VERDICT Overall, this book does a decent job of honoring these young people who stood up and made a difference. An additional historical fiction purchase for libraries serving middle graders.

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