Posted in Historical Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

The Good Son tells a tale in miniature

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War Told in Miniature, by Pierre-Jacques Ober/Illustrated by Jules Ober & Felicity Coonan, (May 2019, Candlewick Studio), $22, ISBN: 9781536204827

Ages 10-14

“About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war. The war was supposed to last months. It lasted years.” This story about Pierre, a World War I French soldier, is told with spare narrative and is illustrated using antique military miniatures, photographed to create stunning moments.

Pierre is a young French soldier who quietly left his regiment for two days to celebrate Christmas with his mother. Upon his return, he is imprisoned for desertion and awaits execution. As he waits, he looks back on his life as a soldier: his choice to sign up, his dreams of glory, and the horrific truth of the battlefield. He remembers sharing coffee with German soldiers who were tired of fighting, and of spending what would be his final Christmas with his mother. His friend, Gilbert, comes by to bring him food and wine, and makes a promise to carry Pierre’s letter to his mother.

The Good Son is not a picture book for young children; it’s for middle schoolers and up. The use of miniatures brings home the scale of war: seeing the lines and lines of soldiers going into battle looks impressive, but turned becomes chilling when you understand that young men, not toys, headed to battle. There are beautiful and horrifying shots of battlefield explosions and war machines; pensive portraits by firelight as Pierre waits for word from the colonel. The text is heart aching, as we read about a young man’s struggle to understand how to be a good son and a good soldier. An author’s note and a note on the photography process provide a deeper look into the creation of the book and offers some further insight into Pierre’s story.

Beautifully written and photographed, this is a story that will provoke thought and discussion. A good book group choice.

Author:

I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading (http://whatchareading.com). I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (http://www.onwednesdays.net/), where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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