By Chris Wilson
RESISTANCE is the story of the families in the free parts of France during WWII and the ordinary men and women –– but especially the children –– fighting the good fight in the most meager ways they know how.
Paul and Maria Tessier are friends with Henri Levy, a Jewish boy whose parents were taken away. The Tessier children, unbeknownst to their family, spirt Henri away and hide him. Then one day the two children meet a member of the Resistance and hatch a plan to 1) help Henri find his parents and 2) help the Resistance fight the Germans.
Ever since MAUS, I cannot pick up a holocaust comic without comparing it –– for good or ill –– to the Pulitzer Prize-winning, canonical oeuvre. Sometimes I shy away from such tomes because I have the “been there, done that” feeling, although I know that is entirely unfair as there are plenty of holocaust stories to be told.
Then I picked up RESISTANCE and pondered the cover beset with a cool, clay-colored concrete wall layered with the monochromatic German soldier facing off the page. Behind him a boy’s hand, armed with a bright red rubber-clad slingshot. Children fighting back –– what is that about?
RESISTANCE is no super hero story. The children do not don capes and KAPOW soldiers nor do they arm themselves with Rambo-style headbands and go medieval on the SS. The kids use their skills and innocence to smuggle secrets and messages to other Resistance members and help Henri find his parents. They do ordinary things for extraordinary outcomes and they do it authentically.
Paul smuggles secrets through German occupied France through his drawings, which are brilliantly depicted as ragged edged chalk on parchment. This small details gives life to the comic and authenticity to the story as it relates to the children’s point of view. The art is very … French although I’m not sure I know how to accurately define what that means except to say: It looks French and it works.
Chris’ Rating: Middle school and older
It is a strong story containing violence more implied than depicted, with the exception of the one Jewish man shot on the train.
IN THE CLASSROOM
History comics lend themselves to the dual text approach in the classroom whereby the teacher uses a historical fiction graphic novel together with a nonfiction book about the event of the same time period. Students not only get a personal feel for the history but can connect themselves to the time period because of the fiction/nonfiction approach, giving a richer and longer lasting experience.
However, a dual text approach is not necessarily required. I am reminded of what TGC Staff Writer Nate Stearns wrote in his review of RESISTANCE:
“We grasp history best in the stories of the people who live it, and graphic novels like this make me wonder if all of our middle school history textbooks should be replaced by short graphic novel historical fictions.”
I think he’s right. So many students complain about the boringness of history because they have no connection, no relationship with the past. Graphic novels, especially accurate historical fiction comics, open the door to the real stories of real people living out their lives. Once students connect then they are open to the experience of learning, analyzing and understanding the past and therefore, the present.
Author: Carla Jablonski
Illustrator: Leland Purvis
Colors: Hilary Sycamore
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Historical Fiction
Color: Full color