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2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
There was a full moon on the evening of September 22, 1943, when Pearl Witherington, age 29, parachuted into France to aid the French Resistance as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Out of the 400 agents sent to France during the German occupation, 39 were women. Pearl, whom the SOE called “cool and resourceful and extremely determined” and “the best shot, male or female, we have yet had,” became one of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters.
In Code Name Pauline Pearl describes in a series of plainspoken reminiscences her difficult childhood and harrowing escape from France in 1940; her recruitment and training as a special agent; the logistics and dangers of posing as a cosmetics saleswoman to make her way around the country as an undercover courier; and both failed and successful attempts at sabotaging the Nazis. She tells how, when the leader of her network was caught by the Gestapo, she became “Pauline” and rose to command a 3,500-strong band of French Resistance fighters.
With an annotated list of key figures, an appendix of original unedited interview extracts—including Pearl’s husband Henri’s story—and never-before-published photographs from Pearl’s personal collection, Code Name Pauline will captivate World War II buffs of any age and, just as Pearl wished, inspire young people.
|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Series:||Women of Action Series|
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Lexile:||950L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Pearl Witherington Cornioley joined the Special Operations Executive in 1943 and worked with the French Resistance as an undercover courier and later, under the code name “Pauline,” as a network leader of 3,500 men. She was instrumental in the carrying out of numerous acts of sabotage during World War II.
Kathryn J. Atwood is the author of Women Heroes of World War II. She has contributed to Midwest Book Review; BookPleasures.com; PopMatters.com; and War, Literature, and the Arts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a unique look at a time in history when women shone but had yet to be fully accepted. This is an intricate tale that is full of historical details and tells a complete story. At times I felt as if I’d travelled back in time, experiencing the tale through the authors’ words. The firsthand account of the story made it even more poignant for me. It also was an enjoyable read, reading like a work of fiction. I appreciated the fact that the authors didn’t try to romanticize the characters that they introduced us to or the time period in question. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Growing up, Cecile Pearl Witherington didn't have an easy childhood. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother grew up in a well-to-do family and wasn't prepared for the struggles of being a "single parent." At a young age, Pearl took on a lot of responsibility that ultimately prepared her for her important role in World War II.Because of her British citizenship and her upbringing in Paris, Pearl spoke English and French. she became an SOE agent. When the Germans invaded France, Pearl and her family fled back to England. The SOE (Special Operations Executive) is one of those little-known yet fascinating events of World War II. It was so top-secret most had never heard of it until after the war. A British organization designed to help resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe, the SOE participated in sabotage, espionage, reconnaissance, and all types of guerrilla warfare. After grueling SOE training and three practice jumps, 29-year-old Pearl parachuted into Nazi-occupied France on a cold September night in 1943. Posing as a cosmetics saleswoman, Pearl began her resistance work by participating in little acts of defiance against the Nazis. Things take a turn for the worst when her boss Maurice Southgate was captured by the Gestapo (Nazi police) and taken to Buchenwald (a concentration camp) - leaving Pearl in charge of 3,500 resistance workers. For the rest of the war, she bravely led the 3,500 resistance workers under the name Pauline. After the war, Pearl settled down with her pre-war fiance, Henri Cornioley. She never spoke about her work in the resistance because she was afraid her story would be twisted with Hollywood-drama or exaggerations. Fifty years later, Pearl began to realize the impact her story could have on young people. She told a French journalist about their wartime experiences, and her story was published in France as Pauline. This book, Code Name Pauline, is the English translation, edited by Kathryn J. Atwood. This book, since it is aimed at a young adult audience, is pretty easy to follow along. The story is straightforward and told solely as it had happened - very little drama is present. Pearl gracefully took all of life's challenges. The beginning of each chapter fills us in with some historical background, which really helps the reader, especially if you've never heard of the SOE. I have always loved strong female protagonists, especially in true stories. I loved Kathryn Atwood's book Women Heroes of World War II and I was so excited to hear she was in the process of editing another book (this book). Our culture does not put enough emphasis on true heroes, like Henri and Pearl. We need to show young girls courageous females like Pearl and do exactly what she would have wanted - share her story to encourage young people facing trials in their life. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review.
It is fact-filled, dry and unemotional. Something you tend to see/read often in first hand accounts of wartime and/or combat situations. I don't think people really comprehend the level of fear, anxiety and trauma that soldiers and non-military went through and indeed still go through. The only thing that differs is the amount and level due to the type of conflict or country it is taking place in. So with that in mind I can understand how Pearl's account can appear devoid of emotion or a little dry. I know it was her own wish to not let the events be depicted in an overly dramatic way. Pearl makes her experiences seem completely normal and ordinary. They are far from that and how could a reader looking back at those events not think they were an extraordinary feat of bravery in such dire times. I think Pearl attempts to equal the playing field by making everyone and every event seem almost casual because she doesn't want to elevate her own role in those events. No person is more important than any other. I admire that in her but at the same time think she should and can own her bravery and courage. As most eyewitness accounts of wartime events this counts as part of history and although it may not be a work of literary prowess it is a work that should be read for posterity. I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.