cover image October '45: Childhood Memories of War

October '45: Childhood Memories of War

Jean-Louis Besson. Creative Editions, $22 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200955-7

Besson, only seven years old in 1939 when his native France entered WWII, here offers a uniquely personal child's-eye view of the war. From a solid Catholic family, Besson was spared the full force of German persecution; nonetheless, his experiences left indelible impressions. Framing his recollections in a series of loosely chronological, individually titled vignettes, Besson adopts a child's plain, nonjudgmental perspective. In ``Marshal, Here We Are!'' he remembers joining in school songs in honor of Petain (``He is supposed to be France's savior''); in ``A Few Fake Tickets,'' the whole family helps produce counterfeit ration cards for bread. There are many powerful moments: seeing his uncle, a WWI veteran, weep the day the Germans march into town; witnessing a plane fall in flames from the sky; a teacher asking his students to recall their absent classmates, ``those who wore yellow stars.'' But there is always a sense of hope, conveyed clearly throughout in the ample, affectionately rendered illustrations. Despite the picture book format, this is for older readers; the significance or poignancy of many moments will be lost on those who do not already know at least the broad outlines of the war. All ages. (Oct.)