Who Was the Girl Warrior of France? Joan of Arc: A Who HQ Graphic Novel

­Penguin Workshop. (Who HQ Graphic ­Novels). Oct. 2021. 64p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780593224403.
Gr 4-6–An attempt to cast Joan of Arc as a hero falls largely flat. Though Joan’s early experiences and later career are brushed in broadly, mostly in prose sections, her character is the focus of this mixed-format graphic episode. In a clear effort to make her more accessible (and perhaps more of a hero or role model) to modern young readers Searle takes liberties with history—Joan is repeatedly cast as a fighter for France’s “freedom,” when in fact her causes were obeying God’s commands and driving the British from territory claimed by the French king. Illustrator Frantz likewise takes liberties, depicting people with a wide range of skin tones to imply an unlikely degree of racial diversity for the time and place. Still, her large-eyed, olive-hued heroine so strongly radiates grim determination and fortitude throughout that it takes a second look to notice how small she actually is next to the men around her. Joan’s unshakable faith in God, herself, and her mission comes off as a steady, grinding persistence that first wears down the refusal of her local lord Robert de Baudricourt to allow her to travel to the court at Chinon, and then convinces the skeptical young Dauphin, future King Charles VII, to let her lead the relief of the English siege of Orléans. Off she rides to a destiny described (not in detail) in a conclusion that includes a time line and an audience appropriate reading list.
VERDICT Conventional portraits such as Diane Stanley’s or Margaret Hodges’s works do Joan of Arc far better service. Not recommended.

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