Captain Rosalie

Ever since her father left for the war, Rosalie is on a mission. Sitting at the back of a classroom of older boys she has been exceptionally allowed in, the five-year-old is focusing on the blackboard, trying to teach herself how to read. Letters are the only tie she has left to her father, and when those suddenly stop arriving, Captain Rosalie, is even more set on her goal.

Timothée de Fombelle’s story is heartbreakingly beautiful: Rosalie’s words are simple and convey her raw emotions (determination, fear, curiosity, loss) all the better. Told through the eyes of a child, Captain Rosalie describes WWI in a deeply moving way. Celebrating the power of knowledge and friendship against the darkest of times, Rosalie and her family’s tale pay a powerful tribute to war correspondence and the importance of words.

Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations perfectly complement the story and bring to life de Fombelle’s words with feeling and a poetic sense of detail. Most of the landscapes surrounding Rosalie are grey. The heroine’s red hair is a rare touch of colour against her joyless surroundings: a symbol of youth, hunger for knowledge and bravery.

Even though a work of fiction, Captain Rosalie (translated from the French by Sam Gordon) is both a graceful exploration of a child’s mind and an insightful record of civilians’ lives during WWI. Rosalie’s secret mission is warmly recommended to any child 8-12.