"I am Captain Rosalie. I'm disguised as a little girl, five and a half years old." Since her father is away fighting in the war, Rosalie's mother must work in the local factory while Rosalie stays at school. Every day, she huddles in the back of the classroom with her sketchpad, confident that no one realizes she is a "spy," sussing out information for her "secret mission." Rosalie is observant, noting the way her teacher, the war veteran, "smiles as though having just the one [arm] is quite something," or seeing how her mother takes longer with her father's letter than she needs, staring at a single page long after she's stopped reading to Rosalie. Rosalie knows it is of the utmost importance she learn to decipher those letters if she wants to bring her mission to an end.
Captain Rosalie by Timothée de Fombelle, translated by Sam Gordon, is a tender journey of learning and discovery. War is all Rosalie has ever known, and it shapes every aspect of her life: "One day," she thinks of her secret mission, "I'll be awarded a medal for this. It's already gleaming deep within me." Isabelle Arsenault's watercolor, pencil and ink illustrations are stark, primarily black and white with small bursts of color, capturing the bleakness of Rosalie's village and the pain at the heart of the story. De Fombelle's brief tale is wildly successful in demonstrating that, when war is a reality of our lives, children can't be shielded from it; Captain Rosalie shows the heart-wrenching experience of a child growing up during war and the true cost of knowledge. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer