Joan of Arc's story told in the ravishing line and color of Demi's art.
Demi says in a note that she studied illuminated manuscripts and stained glass, and read "all" the children's books on St. Joan. The pictures are intricately framed in a style to reflect medieval French illumination, and the pictures within use pattern, repetition, sinuous line and jewel-like color that recall cathedral windows and illuminated manuscripts. The text unequivocally treats the 15th-century Joan as a saint, casting the craven King Charles VII as the villain he was. Joan's life is recounted with a strong emphasis on prayer and the will of God, from her beginnings as a devout peasant girl who heeded angelic and saintly voices through her victories and defeats to her imprisonment, trial and martyrdom at the stake. There is dialogue, including Joan's initial conversation with the Archangel Michael, but these quotes are not sourced or authenticated in any way. Joan always appears in the images within a nimbus of gold rays; gold is used lavishly to brilliant effect. The text is cast squarely as a battle between the will of God and the lack of will of the king and the French; the pictures allow readers to see Joan's choices and to comprehend and relate to them.
A young female hero par excellence. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)
Author-illustrator Demi (Rumi: Whirling Dervish) does her usual visually stunning work in this illustrated biography of the storied Joan of Arc, a patron saint of France. The outlines of Joan’s life are known well enough: pious and unsophisticated young Joan hears voices from God that send her to the 15th-century court of the Dauphin, Charles of France. Her victories in battle assure the ascension of the opportunistic Charles to the French throne. But when Joan, heeding secular rather than divine guidance, begins to fail, Charles abandons her, leading to her capture by the English and martyrdom. Demi goes into detail in glorious color, from deep regal blue to medieval gold, bordering her illustrations with small symbols that introduce young readers’ eyes to the glories of illuminated manuscripts and Book of Hours visual richness. The message of female empowerment is a bonus. Recommended for libraries and especially for Catholic educators, who can put to good use fresh renderings of the lives of familiar saints. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati J.D.
Stunning artwork in vivid colors evokes the landscape, battles and architecture of Joan of Arc's 15th century France. She was a young girl driven by faith to save her country. Inspiring soldiers, king, and commoners, she won battles against the English and the Burgundians, who were stealing livestock and killing the French people. When 13-year-old Joan prayed about the injustice all around her, the Archangel Michael appeared to tell her that she was chosen to save the kingdom. Joan called herself the "Maid of God" and led the dauphin Charles to victory to be crowned at Reims Cathedral. After winning many battles, Joan knew it was time to go home. But the King insisted she remain in his service to command the Royal Army. She continued fighting, despite being wounded, and losing the support of her king. The English captured Joan and burned her at the stake. France avenged this cruel death 26 years later. The glorious, detailed illustrations bring the compelling story to life for young readers. Libraries and homes may want this book on display to share the artwork with visitors. The book would certainly be an asset in religious libraries and is an excellent choice for parents who wish to teach their children about the lives of the Saints. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–6—This elegant, thoughtful book is an excellent introduction to the life and times of Joan of Arc. Her childhood was filled with religious devotion that led her to help care for the sick and poor in her small French village. When a vision of the Archangel Michael appeared and told her that her destiny was to lead an army and put the dauphin Charles on the throne, she was initially overwhelmed, but eventually determined to follow the word of God. Demi's brilliant telling of this familiar tale turns a complex story into an accessible and, more importantly, engaging one for young readers. The running theme of Joan's innocence, purity of heart, and devout faith butting up against violent enemies and political intrigue time and time again is part of what makes this story so compelling. Medieval France is brought to life via touches of heraldry and illumination that permeate the mixed-media artwork. Gilded, colorful paintings are rich with both religious symbols and the pastoral surroundings that influenced Joan throughout her short life. This is a lovely addition to any biography collection.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA