Based on events that took place in several southeastern French villages during World War II, this breathtaking novel follows a group of teens as they carry out covert operations to shelter and transport Jews who would otherwise be deported to internment camps.
Drawing on their individual strengths and skills, 16- and 17-year-old Gentiles and Jews join an extensive secret network of sympathizers working against the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime. Philippe, a passionate, youthful-looking redhead, dons a boy scout uniform to help refugees flee to neutral Switzerland. Jean-Paul, a Latvian Jew with hopes of a future as a doctor, forges documents for himself and countless others. The naturally shy Celeste masters her fears to deliver messages for the maquis (guerilla resistance fighters). These brave teens hide small noisy children in the forest while police trucks and motorcycles roar through the village searching for "non-Aryans." They continually outsmart an ambivalent young French national police officer (whose name, Perdant, means "loser," much to their giggling delight). The group of friends--scoundrels all, according to Perdant--risks everything to try to address one question: "What are you supposed to do when the law is morally wrong?"
Newbery Honor author Margi Preus (Heart of a Samurai; The Bamboo Sword) delivers a deeply researched, suspenseful story that includes photos, documents, a pronunciation guide and a bibliography. She closely models her characters after real players in the Resistance, as described in the epilogue, and the heartbreakingly realistic dynamics play out among the teens as they experience first love, homesickness and absolute terror. Both thrilling and chilling, Village of Scoundrels will surely keep readers engrossed from start to finish. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor