Jacqueline : a soldier's daughter by Pierre-Jacques Ober and Jules Ober

cover image

This story is based on the author’s mother’s memoir telling her experiences during WW2 from when she was age 7. Told through miniatures, beautifully crafted, lit and photographed, we have a child’s eye view of events as they unfold. They laugh about school gas mask drill, looking like “little pigs”, then her father rides off to war but brings her a puppy when on leave. Jacqueline is delighted as she longs for a sister and is lonely. As the Germans invade France the changes are terrifyingly quick, with no words to describe them. There are many casualties but when her puppy is one of them Jacqueline grieves. They discover her father is held prisoner in Troyes and her mother bravely rides a bike 300km with Jacqueline to rescue him. At times it is hard to know who to trust; they are helped by German soldiers and have to be wary of French informers, Jacqueline is scared and confused but she is also resilient. The story follows the family from France to Algiers and on to Germany as her father takes on various military roles. Jacqueline, her mother and father survive the war and there is an unexpected happy ending supported by photographs at the end of the book of Jacqueline and her best friend Hildegard celebrating 75 years of friendship.

This book uses the same format as The Good Son, exquisitely modelled dioramas with individually created figures given emotional impact by their poses, lighting or the point of view. Colour is used effectively, for example in contrasting sunny, undamaged Algiers with the grey devastation of post war Germany. Text is minimal and matter of fact, in keeping with this being a child’s story, the dioramas fill in the detail. The French version of the book has won a 2021 prize for best photography book for young people. There are teacher resources on the publisher’s website and more information about the [Photo]graphic novels on the Little Soldier Stories website. Less confronting than The Good Son, children of any age would find Jacqueline engaging. A must for any middle school study of this period of history and graphic design or film study students would find it interesting.

Themes: War, History, Resistance, Family.

Sue Speck