Review of Village of Scoundrels: Based on a True Story of Courage During WWII

Village of Scoundrels: Based on a True Story of Courage During WWII
by Margi Preus
Middle School, High School    Amulet/Abrams    294 pp.    g
2/20    978-1-4197-0897-8    $16.99

In 1940s Vichy France, a remote mountain-plateau village known for sheltering refugees fleeing Nazi persecution houses a unique and innovative high school that draws students from all over France and beyond. Many of the students secretly work for the resistance, the maquis, which becomes much riskier after the arrival of Inspector Perdant from the national police, there to “identify evidence of illegal activities and unregistered Jews, foreigners, communists, and undesirables.” Preus (Heart of a Samurai, rev. 9/10; Shadow on the Mountain, rev. 11/12) weaves the experiences of students Philippe (who smuggles refugees over the border into Switzerland), Celeste (who carries messages for the maquis), Jean-Paul (who runs a sophisticated document-forging operation), and others into a tale of danger and bravery, luck and wits, purpose and community, and even occasional humor (some pretty on-point Nazi jokes). Chapters alternate among characters, with Preus always circling back to Perdant’s constant spying and dogged pursuit of arrests, which amps up the suspense (somewhat undermined, however, by how easily local farm boy Jules outwits him at every turn). An extensive epilogue informs readers about the real people upon whom the novel’s characters are based; and about concentration camps, the Boy Scouts and their relationship to the maquis, and the actual high school L’Ecole Nouvelle Cévenole in the village of La Chambon. A bibliography and a pronunciation guide complete the book.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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