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Monday, May 5, 2014

hidden, written by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo and translated by Alexis Siegel. First Second, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $18.99 ages 9 and up

"What about Isaac? Who was he in love with? We didn't know. You didn't ask him? Neither of us had the nerve to tell him. I wanted to tell him, but Catherine was always there. I didn't want to say it in front of her. We couldn't even talk during recess because we went to different schools. The boys' school...and the girls'."
A young child awakens to find her grandmother looking at photos and crying. She asks if Grandma had a nightmare. She encourages Grandma to talk about it (just as her mother does if Elsa has a bad dream) and hopes that will make her feel better.

So, Grandma tells Elsa about a life long ago in Paris in 1942, when the French considered the war ended. She was soon to learn something quite different. Upon arrival at home one day, she finds her parents talking about becoming 'a family of sheriffs'. Daddy is happy; Mom not so. Mom sews the yellow stars on their clothes,, and Dounia goes off to school the following day proudly displaying her sheriff's star. She will soon learn that the star has branded her a Jew. She is teased and treated badly from that moment. The teacher is mean. Her friends refuse to speak to her. Dounia is confused:

"I didn't understand how being a Jew made me different from the other girls in my class. Also...why had Dad made up the story about sheriffs? There aren't any sheriffs in France."

Life becomes very difficult for the family. When the Nazis come for her parents, they quickly hide Dounia in a cupboard in the bedroom cabinet. They tell her to stay right there until someone comes for her. Once they are gone, her parents arrested,  a neighbor comes to rescue her. The kind neighbors keep her as their daughter, until they hear that the police will return. Once again, she is led to safety; this time in the countryside. Dounia and her adoptive mother find security and happiness with Germaine, helping to do chores and meeting new people. They wonder constantly about those who are no long with them.

When  the war is finally over, Dounia is reunited with her mother, who is almost unrecognizable to her loving daughter. Her father does not come home.
There is no hurry in this story of war, courage, loss and reconciliation. Readers will want to pore carefully over every single page of this dramatic and detailed account. The expressive faces speak volumes, emotional yet determined and full of grace. Dounia becomes much more emotional in sharing her story first with her granddaughter, and then with her son who has never heard it. Marc Lizano ensures light amidst the dark, happiness dampened by sorrow, courage in the face of grave danger. His graphic format is incredibly touching and informative. It is a powerful and personal account of a desperate time.

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