Review Blog

Oct 11 2015

The white mouse by Peter Gouldthorpe

cover image

Omnibus, 2015. ISBN 9781742990910
(Age: 9+) Recommended, World War Two, Heroism, Resistance, Nancy Wake, France. The story of one of Australia's greatest heroes, Nancy Wake is brought to life in this exceptional story book by Gouldthorpe. Each double page illustrates the story of the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War, and along the side of the page, usually written on notepaper, as Nancy was a journalist, is her story. Each page fills in the tale of her life, from moving away form Australia to work in Paris in 1934, to seeing Nazi intimidation at first hand in Vienna in the same year and then deciding to join the underground movement in France when war broke out.
Gouldthorpe's illustrations take in a broad sweep of the occupation of France. We see the increasing numbers of Nazi troops in French streets, people being taken away for questioning, tanks moving about the countryside, the Vichy Police force emulating the Nazis. Everywhere is touched by the Nazis and their strict regimes, all is conquered and overwhelmed, but a few brave people do things to undermine their power. Nancy, now married, travels with her businessman husband taking information, clothing, documents to those in need. She helps many refugees and even a large number of British soldiers to escape their prison. But she is captured and tortured, escaping only when a colleague takes an extraordinary step. She eventually escapes to Britain and trained as an SOE (Special Operations Executive) then parachuted back to France to help the Resistance. Dubbed the 'White Mouse' by the Nazis, she must use all her powers to survive, even convincing the members of the Resistance that she is who she says she is. Her daring bicycle trip to Chateauroux is breathtaking and when the Germans pulled out of France in 1944, she headed straight back to Marseilles to find that her husband had died at the hands of the Gestapo.
Nancy Wake is revealed to a younger audience through this enlightening book and visiting the War Memorial in Canberra, they will be able to view her medals. Gouldthorpe's illustrations include full page drawings of warfare, many backed by newspaper print from the time, maps and postcards, adding to the impact on the reader of her daring deeds during an horrific time. The endpapers with their full spread of maps will help the readers pinpoint the places spoken of in the text.
Fran Knight

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