cover image Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Diane Stanley. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14329-9

Stanley (Leonardo da Vinci) orchestrates the complexities of history into a gripping, unusually challenging story in this exemplary biography. As much a portrait of an age as of a person, her work here carefully and accessibly establishes the context of Joan's life, explaining the Hundred Years' War and its impact on ordinary people. Judiciously chosen details build atmosphere in both the text and the artwork--painstakingly wrought, gilded paintings modeled after the illuminated manuscripts of Joan's day. Providing a more rounded view than in Poole's biography (see above review), Stanley quotes Joan and her contemporaries (and cites her sources), describes pivotal moments in battle and insightfully chronicles Joan's trial, imprisonment, recantation, execution and posthumous rehabilitation. The immaculate paintings, too, testify to scrupulous research (cathedrals, weaponry, landscapes are accurately depicted) and artistry (for example, the paintings are shaped irregularly but symmetrically, like altarpieces). At the end, Stanley offers readers different theories about Joan's ""voices,"" and concludes, ""Sometimes, in studying history, we have to accept what we know and let the rest remain a mystery."" Appealing to the audience's intelligence and imagination, this book stimulates an interest in both its particular subject, Joan of Arc, and history in general. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)