cover image Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust

Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust

Hudson Talbott. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23434-7

Chronicling the daring wartime activities of a Dutch friend and neighbor, Talbott (We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story) overcomes a mildly strained narrative by virtue of his freshly conceived and powerfully rendered paintings. The story itself commands attention. Jaap Penraat is barely out of his teens when the Nazis invade Holland, and almost as soon as the Nazi persecution of the Jews begins, Jaap begins counterfeiting identity cards and other documents for his Jewish friends. In 1942 he hatches and executes a stunning plan: he forges a series of papers so he can pass as an official of a German construction company, then applies for official travel permits to bring Dutch ""workers"" (in fact Jews) to a phony job site in France, from which point they can be smuggled to Spain and other safe harbors. In this way Jaap and a partner save more than 400 people before they halt their operation in May 1944. Talbott saddles this real-life drama with slightly didactic exposition, and his prose is uneven (""Books held a special place in the hearts of the people of Holland""). But his illustrations pack a wallop, incorporating Jaap's forgeries and other documents in full-spread compositions, generous spot art and occasional borders. Depicting throngs of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, for example, Talbott uses indistinct gray tones to imply the crowd mentality and reserves color for resisters like Jaap. His art revitalizes the traditional images of the war to home in on the individuality and vulnerability of its heroes and its victims. Ages 7-up. (Oct.)