The authors of Hidden on the Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazis in Le Chambon
(Holiday House, 2007) return to France to uncover a little-known story. While they admit that "many of the details are destined to remain forever uncertain, with few facts proven to a historian's satisfaction," Ruelle and DeSaix feel strongly that the bits and pieces of information that they were able to unearth provide convincing evidence that the Muslims of the Grand Mosque of Paris saved Jewish lives.
While the format and appearance of this title are similar to other picture books of rescue and resistance during the Holocaust, such as Carmen Agra Deedy's The Yellow Star
(Peachtree, 2000) and Ken Mochizuki's Passage to Freedom
(Lee & Low, 1997), the text provides more of a descriptive history of events than a retelling of a story. The oil-paint spreads are luminous and beautiful,
but they belie the tone of the writing and the presentation of facts. Regardless, this well-researched book belongs on the shelves of most libraries.--School Library Journal
The book begins with a quote found in Islamic and Jewish traditions: "Save one life, and it is as if you've saved all of humanity."
Today's problems between these two Abrahamic religions are obvious, but there are moments of brotherhood. During the Nazi occupation of France, Jews were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. One avenue of refuge was the Grand Mosque in Paris, where Jewish adults and children hid, some briefly until they could be spirited away, others for longer stays. Thanks to the mosque's rector, and particularly Berbers from Algeria, many lives were saved. This is a fascinating, little-known piece of history
(the afterword explains how difficult it was to research). The authors sometimes try too hard to explain too much to a middle-grade audience, but they effectively capture the desperation felt by the victims and the enormous effort made by the resistance. The evocative paintings in somber colors heighten the tension, but some, like the one of a Jewish girl in front of an intricately designed mosque wall, capture the hope.
Grades 3-6. --Booklist
About the Author
Karen Gray Ruelle is a decorated author who has written over 20 children’s books.
Deborah Durland DeSaix, a former college professor, has written and illustrated many picture books for children. Reviews for her artwork are outstanding. Booklist praised her art in Know What I Saw by Aileen Fisher saying, "De Saix steals the show, though, with lush, photorealistic scenes that are both large enough to sweeten the subtraction lesson built into the 10-to-1 countdown premise." She now lives in Asheville, North Carolina