cover image Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Josephine Poole. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-679-89041-6

""This is a true story. It happened over 500 years ago, in France."" So begins this romantic biography of Saint Joan, the 15th-century farmer's daughter who heard voices from heaven directing her to lead the French in battle during the Hundred Years' War. The opening lines, combined with a chronology at the back of the book, establish the agenda as historical--but the tone and much of the content reflect a religious sensibility. Poole (previously paired with Barrett for Snow-white) treats the heavenly voices and Joan's visions as absolute fact: ""During that dreadful time,"" she writes of Joan's imprisonment before her trial for heresy, ""St. Michael and his angels visited her, to comfort her. The Archangel was so beautiful, so kind."" After Joan is burned at the stake, Poole concludes without further elaboration: ""But that was not the end. A saint is like a star. A star and a saint shine forever."" More effective in portraying the simple, massive courage of Joan's endeavors are Barrett's detailed, epic-scale illustrations. Aflame with premonitory fires and flooded with the emotion of battle, they sear the imagination with their horror and beauty. Ages 8-13. (Aug.)