For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy

( 14 )

Overview

A teenager transforms from a schoolgirl to a spy in this true story of heroism in wartime.

Suzanne David's everyday life is suddenly shattered in 1940 when a bomb drops on the main square of her hometown, the city of Cherbourg, France, killing a pregnant neighbor right in front of her. Until then the war had seemed far away, not something that would touch her or her teenage friends. Now Suzanne's family is kicked out onto the street as German ...

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For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy

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Overview

A teenager transforms from a schoolgirl to a spy in this true story of heroism in wartime.

Suzanne David's everyday life is suddenly shattered in 1940 when a bomb drops on the main square of her hometown, the city of Cherbourg, France, killing a pregnant neighbor right in front of her. Until then the war had seemed far away, not something that would touch her or her teenage friends. Now Suzanne's family is kicked out onto the street as German soldiers take over their house as a barracks.

Suzanne clings to the one thing she really loves—singing. Her voice is so amazing that she is training to become an opera singer. As Suzanne travels around for rehearsals, cosume fittings, or lessons, she learns more about what the Nazis are doing and about the people who are "disappearing." Her travels are noticed by someone else, an organizer of the French Resistance. Soon Suzanne is a secret courier, a spy fighting for France and risking her own life for freedom.

Despite the horrors of World War II, a French teenager pursues her dream of becoming an opera singer, which takes her to places where she gains information about what the Nazis are doing--information that the French Resistance needs.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This suspenseful novel is based on a true story of a teenage spy during WWII. Suzanne David is 13 when the war invades her life suddenly and violently in May of 1940. From the opening chapter, the book moves at a rapid pace and readers are given a unique perspective on life in occupied France. From rationing to being thrown out of her house with 30 minutes notice, Suzanne's life turns upside down. The hardships of war that citizens of an occupied country suffer is a topical theme. Suzanne continues to train as a singer during the war, and her unusual occupation—a singer traveling to opera houses around France—attracts the attention of Dr. Leclerc. Her family physician is actually a head spy with the resistance, and he recruits Suzanne to carry messages. She does, and manages to survive her experience despite many hair-raising moments. (Literally, as her first hiding place for messages is in her hair.) The action will have readers on the edge through the tense conclusion, and the epilogue is not to be missed. It is a message from the real Suzanne David that includes an important reference which explains the title of the novel. 2003, Dell Laurel-Leaf/Random House, Ages 11 to 14.
—Mary Loftus
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2003: Bradley has written fiction based closely on the life of Suzanne David Hall, who shared her stories with the author. The novel begins in 1940 when Suzanne is 13 and it ends when the Allies liberate her town of Cherbourg, France in June 1944. Suzanne is studying to be an opera singer, and as soon as she finishes school when she is 15, she starts working in the local opera company, singing the leading roles. She naturally has a lot of appointments around town and in nearby towns, and her doctor recruits her as a spy, carrying messages in the midst of the Nazi occupation. She knows that if she is caught, she will be killed. The strength and discipline she needs for her career help her in the work as a spy. Details of her family life under the occupation, her singing career, the solace she finds in music during utmost stress—these details make the story a reality for the reader. Therefore, the fear she experiences working as a spy, the lies she must tell to her family and friends to cover her activities, and the suspense inherent in the story make this a thrilling reading experience. We are filled with admiration for Suzanne's strength and commitment. Frequent French expressions and details from the operas and their arias make this novel even more exotic for American YAs. The town of Cherbourg is laid out in the readers' minds—from the first scenes of Germans bombing the beach at the time of the British troops retreating in 1940 to the liberation of the town on D-Day. In an epilogue, we learn that Suzanne married an American soldier at the end of 1945 and emigrated to America, where she raised her family in Tennessee. Apowerful story. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Random House, Dell Laurel-Leaf, 181p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Life for Suzanne David, a 13-year-old French schoolgirl and music apprentice, dramatically changes in May, 1940, when she and her best friend witness the brutal death of a neighbor when a bomb drops directly in front of them. Soon the Germans take over Cherbourg, and the Davids are forced from their home into poverty. Then Suzanne is given the opportunity to help the Allies. Bravely, she risks her life, family, and singing career in order to spy for the Resistance. The pace of this suspenseful novel, told in first person and based on a true story, moves swiftly into action within the first chapter, showing the young heroine as strong, courageous, and clever. Filled, but not laden, with the events of the war, and peppered with French language and the culture of music, this novel will appeal to readers who enjoy history and espionage.-Kimberly Monaghan, Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Suzanne David’s father always said, "Obey the rules and no one gets hurt." But when their French town of Cherbourg is bombed, her neighbor is killed, the Nazis take over, and her family is turned out of their house, whose rules does she obey? When one of the few black families in Cherbourg disappears, Suzanne says to her Papa, "I thought Hitler only hated Jews. I didn’t know he hated black people too." "Now you do," he replies. It is this growing awareness, step by step, that leads to Suzanne’s involvement in the French Resistance, becoming number 22, and relaying messages essential to the planning of the D-Day invasion. Based on Bradley’s interviews with the real Suzanne, this is an exciting account of a girl’s coming of age in a scary time. The historical context is neatly woven into the story, so readers will learn about Dunkirk, the fall of Paris, Vichy France, Charles de Gaulle, and D-Day. A terrific companion to Gregory Maguire’s The Good Liar, but for an older audience. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440418313
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/11/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 445,641
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.23 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For me the war began on May 29, 1940. I was thirteen years old.

It was a Wednesday, the day we studied catechism and had choir practice and then had the afternoon free. Of course, I had to remain after choir to rehearse my solo, but when that was finished I found my friend Yvette. Together we went to Soeur Margritte.

S’il vous plaît, please, Soeur Margritte, may we go down to the beach?” we asked.

Our convent school was high among the hills of Cherbourg; school was farther from the beach than my own home. But while we were not permitted home except on weekends, we were sometimes permitted to go about town. Yvette and I were good students, well behaved. Always follow the rules, my papa told me, and you will be all right. I always did, and I always was.

“We will take our homework,” Yvette said.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” I said.

“We will be back before supper,” we chorused.

France had been at war with Germany for nearly six months, yet there had been so little fighting that it seemed to mean nothing. The German army had spread across Europe, almost unopposed; neither the French nor the British had done much to stop them. There were English soldiers stationed in Cherbourg—I saw them when Maman and I went to the market on Saturdays—but they were quiet and polite and never bothered anyone. I couldn’t imagine them actually fighting. Some days it was hard to believe we were in a real war.

Which is not to say we weren’t paying attention. We listened to the radio and read the newspaper reports with increasing dread. We knew Hitler was coming; we feared that nothing could stop him. Papa and Maman talked in low voices at the dinner table, and sometimes Papa pounded his fist on the table and swore. “That Hitler!” he would say. “That cursed son of Satan!”

But I was only thirteen. My brothers, Pierre and Etienne, were fourteen and sixteen, too young to be soldiers; Etienne was lame as well. And I was studying to be a famous opera singer. I loved singing like nothing else. At Christmas I had sung a solo in the church choir, Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” and our director had said I was talented and should pursue a career. So now I had a music tutor, Madame Marcelle; I took special voice lessons twice a week and practiced hard every day.

So it was not that I was not paying attention to the war, but that I never thought the war could hurt me.

“Yes,” Soeur Margritte decided. She was the nicest of the sisters. “It’s a beautiful day, and who knows how many carefree days we have left. You may go. Have a nice time—but do your homework!”

We skipped down the cobblestone streets. The wind blowing in from the Channel tousled our skirts, pulled at our hair. I sang an aria from Carmen as we drew closer. Carmen was my favorite opera. I knew most of the part of Carmen, but I still could not reach some of the high notes.

“Oh, tais-toi,” said Yvette, rolling her eyes at me. “Be quiet. Singing, always singing. I bet you sing in your sleep.”

I probably did sing in my sleep. Someday I would sing in Paris. I dreamed of it all the time. “I’ll ask Odette,” I said. Odette was one of my roommates. I hummed a few notes, then began again. “Ah! je t’aime, Escamillo, je t’aime, et que je meure si j’ai jamais aimé quelqu’un autant que toi! Ah, I love you, Escamillo, I love you, and may I die if I have ever loved anyone as much as you!”

Yvette grinned. “What a horrible song!” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, flung her arm out dramatically, and began to sing, “Savez-vous planter les choux? Do you know how to plant cabbages?” A simple nursery song. Her voice wobbled, up, down, down, up.

Singing is a talent. You have it or you don’t.

“Come on!” I said, running toward the sea.

We went to the Place Napoléon, the big square near the Gare Maritime, the station where trains could pull right up to the harbor to load and unload the ships. The Church of La Trinité formed part of the square, and from the benches around the edge we could watch the ships in the harbor, the waves curling, and the birds wheeling overhead. People strolled back and forth across the square.

We settled onto a bench in the sun. I opened my history book. History was my favorite subject. Yvette sniffed the air as though it were a flower. “It’s so nice to be outside,” she said, “after being stuck in that stuffy school all day. You’re not going to start with the books already, are you? Let’s talk.”

“Okay.” I closed my book and looked around. “The harbor’s empty. That’s odd.” Cherbourg had an important harbor; before the war big ships had come often. I had been on the Queen Elizabeth once, when she was docked at Cherbourg.

Yvette looked too. “Not really,” she said. “It’s such a pretty day. If I had a boat, I’d take it out today too.”

Bonjour, Yvette,” came a woman’s pleasant voice. “Bonjour, Suzanne.”

Bonjour, madame,” we said. Our friend Madame Montagne waved to us as she came nearer. Her little son, Simon, skipped down to the water’s edge and threw rocks into the waves. The Montagnes lived near Yvette’s family, and Madame Montagne was Yvette’s mother’s friend. Since I was Yvette’s best friend, I had known Madame Montagne for years.

“Where’s Marie?” I asked. Marie was her daughter, two years old, a beautiful child with wide blue eyes.

“With her grandmother,” Madame Montagne said. She patted her bulging belly happily. She was going to have a baby very soon; we often talked to her about it. Yvette was knitting her a pair of tiny booties. “I have grown too fat and I can’t carry her this far. But Simon wanted to walk down to the beach. It’s such a pretty day.” She looked up. “Is that a plane?”

There was a far-off buzzing noise. It did sound like a plane.

Salut, Simon!” Yvette yelled. Simon waved to her.

I hummed a scale to myself, D minor, as I found my place in my history book again.

The buzzing noise grew louder.

“Simon!” called Madame Montagne. “Do not get your shoes wet! Stay out of the water!” She started to walk toward him.

Suddenly the noise turned into a roar. Planes swarmed overhead, many of them, their engines fast and loud.

I jumped to my feet. My books slid to the ground. Yvette turned toward me, her eyes wide. She said something I didn’t hear.

The beach, the square, exploded.

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Reading Group Guide

The Reality of War

Social studies classes study the world’s wars and the impact war has on a global society. Students learn about ancient wars and the more modern wars that have been fought in the name of freedom. They know about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Some students know about the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Before the events of September 11, 2001, students in America’s schools knew little about the personal tragedies related to war. War was simply something that happened in books, in another time, and on foreign lands. Now, war surrounds them–on television, radio, and in film. Some know firsthand what it feels like to lose a parent to terrorists, and others wait eagerly in front of the television in hopes of gaining a glimpse of a family member or friend who may be in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad. Like the main characters in the novels in this guide, the innocence of America’s children has been marked by violence. A new page of history is being written every day, and it is being done before the eyes of the world’s youngest citizens.

For this reason, it is extremely important that parents and teachers talk with children about war, and offer hope that the world might someday find a peaceful solution to global conflict. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to explain the complex issues of war, but books are always a good way to spark understanding and conversation. This guide offers discussion for the following books: The Gadget by Paul Zindel; Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence; Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers, adapted for young people by Michael French; Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian; and For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Pre-Reading Activity
Engage students in a discussion about the recent war in Iraq, and how it was reported in the news. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the major newspapers or magazines to read. Ask that they read a few issues of the publications during the time of the war and take note of the major headlines, the views of the journalists, etc. Allow students time at the end of each week to share their findings. What conclusions can be drawn about the role of journalists in war?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    Very good

    I think this book is AWESOMMMMMEEEEE! Every word made me want to read more. If you love adventure, defiantly read this!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    AmAAAAAzing!!

    This book was such a good book i hardly put it down!! Very captivating and beautifully written!! Recommended to all types of readers!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 6, 2011

    Llove the book

    This may be one of my favorite books i've ever read, amazing!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2006

    Perfect

    I loved this book. Im so in the whole war thing. This book really showed me how tricky things where for the french spys!!! It scared me,shocked me,and suprised me soooo much! READ IT AND YOU WILL LOVE IT!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Gentlemen?

    And now he's here to (bleep) us!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    EXTREMELY AWESOME!!!

    A must read! It was very inspirational and courageous. Even though it was shorter than what I thought it would be, "For Freedom" it still deserves five stars. Well written and one of the best books I have read. I also find "Someone Named Eva" an interesting book to also read for WW2 readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    Excellent

    This book was beautifully written. Best i have read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    I never get tired of this book :)

    Read this book and you will not want to put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Inspiring...Fabulous!!!

    This book was recommended to me by Suzanne's husband, Larson Hall. Suzanne died earlier this year. They were married 63 years. He spoke of her with great love and admiration. I am sure he misses her with his whole being. I o nly was aquainted with Mr. Hall for about twenty minutes, but I felt so priviledged to have met him.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It was okay

    I was really kind of disappointed...its pretty short, and the "hero" of the story was just perfect...and she apparently will be the first to tell you that. The characters were never really developed and at the end she apparently just drops everything and everybody she was supposed to love so much.....

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    awesome!

    great historical fiction novel!

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  • Posted August 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book

    My favorite historical fiction novel ever. You really care for the chracters and the Suzanne is a likeable protagonist that will have cheering for the resistance.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    This was a great book!

    This was a true story about a french girl named Suzanne David who became a spy to stop the nazis. This girl actually lived. If you like really good books then this is for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is soooo great I've read if about four times. If you love spy work and history then you can't go wring with this book!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2007

    Please Read!!!!!

    This is an outstanding book for all juniors. This book is full of emotinal feelings with everything else. It is a great book I hope you will read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2006

    In the middle

    Right now I am in the middle of this book. While I'm not one for historical fiction this seems really good so far. I'll get back to this when i finish reading For Freedom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2006

    An Exceptional Story Anyone Will Enjoy!

    For Freedom is an edge-of-your-seat kind of book. The story takes place in France during the 1940's. World War II has just begun and it has already turned the life of young Suzanne David upside-down. Her best friend is too upset to speak to anyone at all and now Suzanne has been asked to deliver messages as a spy for the French Resistance. With German soldiers on every street corner danger follows her wherever she goes. This book is too good to put down. It is exciting and adventurous and the reader feels as if he or she is right beside the characters. Will the courageous Suzanne David get caught by the German soldiers or will she be a successful spy? Will she even accept the offer of becoming part of the Resistance? For Freedom is based on a true story. Read it to find the answers to these questions and to enjoy an exceptional book for all ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2006

    Perfecto

    This book was completley relistic and not to mention un-dramatized it really shows a soul and effort of a spy and determination towards freeing thier country.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    My Favorite

    This book is really good, and i really don't like to read but this book is good. It teaches me how it was back then and how people were treted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    A BETTER BOOK

    this book was really good. although it wasn't my favorite, it was really good. some people might actually adore it though. i definately would reccomend it to anyone! a must read: )

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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