That Girl of Pierre's by Robert Davis
1948, Bethlehem Books, 179 pages, softcover
Danielle is a French teenager who fled her small village with her grandmother and younger brother as the Nazis were approaching. After three long years of wandering, the war ends and they return to their village to see how things have fared. They still have no news of Danielle's parents or her betrothed, who were caught up in the horror and confusion of war.
Their home is safe and intact and most of their neighbors have returned, but the vineyards are in terrible shape and some have taken advantage of their absence to seize land and money from them. Hard work and a lot of patience are required to simply have enough to eat, but in the end it will take the cooperation of the community to set things aright - with some surprises and the help of their frail village priest for support.
This story seems to fill a rather unique spot in living books for young people as it provides a glimpse into the aftermath of World War II. It's really rather gentle on the whole (though it hints of much greater troubles in other places - like postwar Germany) and is recommended for ages 12 and up. It could be read aloud to younger or more sensitive children (there is one scene in which someone is prevented from shooting himself).
It is easy to see that the author spent time living in this part of France - he really brings the place to life! My daughter and I found the significant theme of economic cooperation quite interesting - apparently the author liked to develop and encourage this theme, particularly as an answer to Soviet communism.
Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (4-5-07)