Since her father is off fighting for France in WWI and her mother works in a factory, the local schoolteacher looks after Rosalie, who sits quietly at the back of the classroom, drawing and listening. In her racing imagination, the five-year-old (who has never known peacetime) is Captain Rosalie, a soldier “on a mission.... preparing a plan.” Though consumed by wartime thoughts—in one poignant scene, she leans out her window at night, listening for “the noise of the war”—Rosalie feigns no interest in her father’s letters from the front, which her mother reads aloud, omitting harrowing details. Yet Rosalie steadfastly prepares for her nebulous military obligations, “so I’m ready for when my day comes.” That time suddenly arrives in the form of a nighttime visit from a gendarme delivering the news that she and her mother have silently dreaded. De Fombelle (Vango) sublimely crafts a taut story with expansive spaces between words, inviting readers’ creative interpretation. In similarly open-ended and emotion-charged art by Arsenault (Colette’s Lost Pet), Rosalie’s luminous, carrot-hued hair and determined expressions interject a promise of hope amid the darkness. A heartrending portrayal of resilience in sorrowful times. Ages 8–12.(June)
The bright red hair of Rosalie and her mother seems to glow in the gray, wintry light of Arsenault's village scenes, likewise offering hints of life and warmth even in the face of terrible loss...A spare tale likely to engender deep, complex responses.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
De Fombelle (Vango) sublimely crafts a taut story with expansive spaces between words, inviting readers’ creative interpretation. In similarly open-ended and emotion-charged art by Arsenault (Colette’s Lost Pet), Rosalie’s luminous, carrot-hued hair and determined expressions interject a promise of hope amid the darkness. A heartrending portrayal of resilience in sorrowful times.
—Publishers Weekly Online (starred review)
Isabelle Arsenault's watercolor, pencil and ink illustrations are stark, primarily black and white with small bursts of color, capturing the bleakness of Rosalie's village and the pain at the heart of the story. De Fombelle's brief tale is wildly successful in demonstrating that, when war is a reality of our lives, children can't be shielded from it; Captain Rosalie shows the heart-wrenching experience of a child growing up during war and the true cost of knowledge.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers (starred review)
Rosalie’s innocent but determined narration is delicately supported by Arsenault’s atmospheric gray-toned ink and watercolor illustrations touched with fiery rust orange that associates Rosalie’s hair with quotidian items that affect her interior life. The tale, a version of which appeared in The Great War (BCCB 4/15), is ultimately about children’s need for and resilience in the face of truth, and it should inspire thoughtful middle-grade discussion.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Young Rosalie narrates this poignant story (which originally appeared in the 2015 short story collection The Great War) of war, loss, and resilience—and a child’s need to know the truth, even if painful...The book’s small, square format creates intimacy, reinforced by the open page design and frequent watercolor-and-wash illustrations. De Fombelle’s (Vango, rev. 9/14) text is spare, allowing Rosalie’s fierceness to shine through. Spots of color in Arsenault’s (Louis Undercover, rev. 11/17) emotive art focus viewer attention on significant details: Rosalie’s glowing red hair, the fateful blue envelope.
—The Horn Book
This eloquent, heart-wrenching story, of a little girl whose father is away fighting at the front in The Great War, comes from French playwright Timothée de Fombelle, author of acclaimed "Toby Alone" and its sequel and other novels for children.
De Fombelle quietly but movingly evokes the complicated emotions of both Rosalie, who’s proud of and scared for her father, and her mother, who’s struggling to keep it together...Arsenault’s soft, shadowy illustrations, both spot and full-bleed pages, cultivate a rich sense of place and contribute to the thoughtful emotional tenor of this WWI story.
Captain Rosalie is an extraordinary story that deftly yet deeply conveys the tumultuous emotions of a child, family, community, loss, and the glimmer of hope for tomorrow.
—Reading Eagle (from Kendal A. Rautzhan's "Books to Borrow...Books to Buy")
K-Gr 3-Rosalie is a determined young girl on a secret mission. Her mother drops her off at the school every day, so that Rosalie can sit in the back of the classroom and continue her assignment. As the days go on, readers learn more about the details of Rosalie's mission, like that her father is off fighting in the trenches, or about the letters her mother reads her, and about young Edward who may prove to be a possible ally. When the young captain is finally ready to start the last leg of her mission, readers are shown the true spirit of family and truth. De Fombelle has created an interesting plot with a surprising perspective. Readers are quickly drawn into the world Rosalie describes through first-person perspective and are left wondering what mission she is on. This perspective also allows for the difficult subject of World War I to be addressed at a child-friendly level, while not hiding the tragedy, as readers learn through Rosalie's thoughts. The story progresses at a nice pace, giving readers enough time to adjust to new knowledge and clues. Arsenault's illustrations help to amplify the world and characters around Rosalie, allowing readers to see into moments and some emotions that cannot be conveyed through words. Sometimes there are no words, only the illustrations, which also help pace the story and give readers a chance to gather their thoughts. Together, De Fombelle and Arsenault have created a persevering tale about a young captain and her search for some truth in the darkest of times. VERDICT A great hi-lo reader to introduce the destructive aftermath of World War I, and to learn how to deal with loss.-Margaret Kennelly, iSchool at Urbana-Champaign, IL
A young child undertakes a "secret mission" while her father is away at war.
First published from a French original in the 2015 collection The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War but presented here in a small, neatly formatted volume with new illustrations, the tale features 5½-year-old Rosalie, who spends her days at the back of the one-room school while her mother is off at work. The older children and the teacher, a veteran who's lost an arm, think she's just dreaming and drawing pictures, but she's actually engaged in a mission: "One day I'll be awarded a medal for this. It's already gleaming deep within me." The nature of that mission comes clear one day when she sneaks home and discovers that she can finally read for herself the letters her father had been sending from the front—but instead of the optimistic, loving missives her mother had been "reading" to her, she discovers them to be dark cries of anguish and despair. That very day a final letter arrives…from the Ministry of War, with a medal enclosed. Rather than end with that crushingly ironic twist, though, de Fombelle leaves Rosalie smiling, through her tears, at a friend and regarding the medal not as a dead thing but something alive. The bright red hair of Rosalie and her mother seems to glow in the gray, wintry light of Arsenault's village scenes, likewise offering hints of life and warmth even in the face of terrible loss. Everyone in view is white.
A spare tale likely to engender deep, complex responses. (Historical fiction. 10-14)