World War II.
The Germans have occupied France. It doesn’t make much of a difference to the children tucked away in their French boarding school, except that now they have less food to eat. But that’s not such a difficulty. Janet, Henry, and the rest of them enjoy playing with each other and learning from their teacher, Sister Gabriel.
And then, one day, a stranger came to their school. He asked them if they would be willing to do something very important – if they would be willing to take in ten Jewish children among their number. These children are being hunted by the Nazis merely on the basis of their nationality. If they are found, it could mean their death. At the school, they have the chance of being safe. Of course, if they are found at the school, Jewish and French child would suffer alike.
The school agrees to take the children. Then comes the scary day that Sister Gabriel is out and Nazi soldiers show up without warning. Will the Jewish children be safe in their hiding place?
The children have a running theme of reenacting the Nativity story. They take turns playing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. In their childishness, they garble facts and have disagreements over the proper pattern of events. These are humorous, but do lead to a moment which (also, humorously), a little boy declares that he is Jesus.
Janet has something like a crush on Henry. This doesn’t really have any practical manifestations other than a slight jealousy between Janet and Denise, who also has a slight crush on Henry.
The children have occasional squabbles with one another, but on the whole are a peaceable lot. They work together and with great courage to protect the Jewish children in their midst, and show exceptional kindness towards them.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret