Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Village of Scoundrels

Margi Preus, Author

Amulet Books, Fiction, 2019

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Jews, Teens, Underground movements, Refugees, France, WW II, German occupation, Smuggling, Community

Synopsis:

Forging documents, smuggling people over the border, carrying coded messages for the French resistance — the teenagers of Les Lauzes find ways to help the refugees in their midst. For the first years of World War II, the remoteness of their village offers them a certain amount of protection and the townspeople take on the task of sheltering Jewish children rescued form French concentration camps. But as the Nazi occupiers infiltrate every corner of France, the noose tightens, and the operation becomes increasingly dangerous.

First, a French policeman, Officer Perdant, is sent to spy on their doings and uncover the village “scoundrels” — the teenagers, pastors and others who have been aiding the visitors. Little does he know that the villagers watch him. And when the Gestapo arrives with a list of names, the young people must race against time to get their new friends to safety.

Based on a true story, Village of Scoundrels tells how ordinary people opposed the Nazi occupation and stood up for what was right, in spite of intensifying peril.

Why I like this book:

Margi Preus‘ The Village of Scoundrels is a courageous and suspenseful tale that has many heart-stopping moments. Expertly researched, her story is based on the true stories of real people that are woven together into a fictionalized tale that involves danger and a desire to save human lives at the risk of losing their own. Led by their hearts and the will to do good, this extraordinary mountain village of scoundrels — teens, pastors, teachers, farmers and shop owners — stand together and save the lives of 3,200 Jews.

The story is set in Les Lauzes, a village surrounded by beautiful forests and farmland. It has a high school that “promotes peace and international unity” and attracts teens from all over France and Europe. There is no single location for this non-traditional school, as classes are held in many different places throughout the village. The students live in a variety of boarding houses in the village. So it is easy for Jewish children to fit in when they are rescued and brought to the school.

The story is driven by a cast of young and brave characters! There is John-Paul Filon, 17, a Jew who is the master forger of documents, identity cards, and ration books. He even forges a letter so he can attend medical school. Céleste, 16, is a Parisian and has become a courier for the resistance. Philippe, 17, is a red-headed student from Normandy who wears a Boy Scout uniform and helps smuggle Jewish refugees across the border into Switzerland. Henni, 17, and Max, 21, are concentration-camp survivors from Germany and meet again in Les Lauzes. The school provides a home for Henni, before she and Max flee to Switzerland. Jules is the local 10-year-old goatherd who knows the mountains, town and its secrets better than anyone. He passes messages and creates diversions. French Officer Perdant makes Jules his spy and their relationship is quite comic, as he outsmarts Perdant.

Madame Desault is a Jew from Paris, who rescues the children from the French concentration camps and brings them by train to the village. Madame Créneau is the organizer of the network  and finds safe places for the refugees and smuggles children and others to Switzerland.  Pastor Autin preaches peace and practices non-violent resistance.

I always welcome a new WW II book, because I realize that many of the survivors will soon be gone. It is so refreshing to read their stories. Each story offers a different perspective about how ordinary adults and children from many different countries come to the aid of the Jews and make a difference.

Favorite quote:

“We will resist,” Céleste whispered to herself. “Without fear.” After the sermon, Céleste had felt calm. Here was someone who knew what to do. Even if the whole world had gone mad, there was one man who knew what was right and was determined to live it. She felt a sense of purpose. She felt that everyone felt the same way, although no one spoke of it again. They simply began to live it.  Pg. 154

Resources: Make sure you check out the Cast of Characters and a Pronunciation Guide at the beginning of the book. Read the Epilogue, because the author matches her characters with the real-life people who inspired her story. She includes photographs and detailed information about each person. There also is information on the school and guesthouses, the French Boy Scouts and concentration camps. She also includes a timeline and additional resources.

Margi Preus is the author of the Newbery Honor book Heart of of a Samurai and other books for young reachers that include West of the Moon, Shadow on the Mountain and The Bamboo Sword. Visit her at her website and on twitter @MagriPreus.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

20 thoughts on “Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

  1. I absolutely LOVED this one, Patricia! I’m so glad you featured it today, because it reminded me that I want dto purchase a hard copy to supplement our homeschool studies this coming year. I’d never heard of this brave little town, and I’m so excited to share it with my children. What an amazing example of courage and love in the face of injustice.

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    • I love the many different stories of heroism that occurred during WW II. And, I agree that it so important to keep these stories alive! Most are over 90.

      Hey, do you have Netflix? Have you seen the movie “Freedom Writers” with Hillary Duff. It’s based on a true story about how a high school teacher breaks through the gangs in her school by teaching her students about the biggest gang of all — the Nazis and the holocaust. I have watched the movie atleast 7 times. It’s a favorite for my husband too.

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  2. What an intriguing and hopeful story! It’s neat to hear that all of this is based on real life, and I’m impressed by how many details the author seems to have crammed into this book. Thanks for the great review!

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  3. I love that this is based on real life and spotlights teens being heroic. It sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for sharing it this week.

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  4. I’m adding this compelling story to my growing list of books I’d like to read with a WW II theme. Might have to slide this one on top. The courageous actions of these teens during a difficult time makes this a must read.
    I’ll have a post dedicated to WW II on Friday, inspired by some recently found letters.

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  5. Oh, my goodness! This sounds like a powerful book about issues and a time period I enjoy reading about. And the cover and title are spot on. Thank you so much for sharing this gem with us for MMGM, Patricia! :0}

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  6. This book sounds amazing! There are a lot of books for adults about the French resistance, but this one is the first one I’ve heard of for the middle grade set. It sounds like an amazing message for kids about being brave in the face of overwhelming evil. I will definitely be on the look out for this one.

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    • No, I believe it is appropriate for 10-17 year-olds. It is a book for those in middle school/junior high. I wouldn’t give the book to kids younger than 10. If the child is sensitive, I might wait a year. There is a death at the end.

      Liked by 1 person

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