Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Good Son - A Story from the First World War Told in Miniature by Pierre-Jacques Ober & illustrated by Jules Ober and Felicity Coonan

Candlewick Studio
Hardcover ISBN: 9781536204827
104 pages/Ages 14 and up

My thoughts:  This is a beautifully executed book using the photographic imagery of miniature figures to depict the scenes of war - battles, marching groups of soldiers - from the story that is being told. The time is 1914 at Christmastime and the setting is France.

These scenes evoke the scale and scope of war. The large groups of men involved. The battles and the destruction caused from them. The soldier didn't anticipate the reality of the bloody war he later experienced. It haunted him.

The conflicted mind and emotions of a soldier have him in a situation of desertion at time of war. The question in my mind is "Did he actually leave without permission resulting in desertion?" or "Did he not return in the prescribed amount of time allotted?" or "Was it simply a misunderstanding?" Each answer evokes a different thought process and emotional impact as to the story.

Is this a children's book? I don't think so. It is intended for the age 14 middle-school age child and upwards, and it could readily give opportunity to discuss the realities of war; but I think this discussion more suited for the upper limit of the intended audience plus a few years. The pictures do depict the impact of war on individuals in the civilian as well as military community.

I enjoyed the artistry of staging the miniatures and the photography. The backstory of the photographic production of this book is fabulous and shows the intricacies of this type of work so beautifully executed. 

I liked the desire of the soldier to be with family. I disliked the imprisonment and promise of execution - whether by error or truly justified. For a children's book this is a bit much - even the intended audience.

About the book: It is Christmastime, 1914, and World War I rages. A young French soldier named Pierre had quietly left his regiment to visit his family for two days, and when he returned, he was imprisoned. Now he faces execution for desertion, and as he waits in isolation, he meditates on big questions: the nature of patriotism, the horrors of war, the joys of friendship, the love of family, and how even in times of danger, there is a whole world inside every one of us. And how sometimes that world is the only refuge. Its publication coinciding with the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, this moving and sparely narrated story, based on true events, is reenacted in fascinating miniature scenes that convey the emotional complexity of the tale. Notes from the creators explore the innovative process and their personal connection to the story. (Find the book at Candlewick)

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given

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