Saturday, April 26, 2014
Joan of Arc by Shana Corey
Rating: 4 stars
Seen the movie Frozen? Heard the songs from it…maybe just once or twice? Not surprisingly, Lorelei is downright enchanted with the story, the characters, and the songs. Last night I had to ask her to sing a little more quietly as she flitted around her room before turning her light out because her brothers were already asleep.
While singing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" Anna sings as she gazes up at a painting: "Hang in there, Joan!" Lorelei, in her ice cream night gown and wavy hair in her face, sung the line "Hang in there Joe." I had to pause her enthusiastic singing and insert a teachable moment. It sounds worse than it was. It sounds like I deflated her fun. Oh wait, I think I might have. POP!
I quickly explained that it was J-O-A-N, a girl, and she was a famous woman…wait, actually a teenage girl who fought for France in a war. Lorelei's eyes got bigger with these quick facts, unable to digest the craziness of that story. Or maybe she just wanted to get back to the flitting around part of her evening.
The next day we went to the library--wonderfully, with my mom, who occupied the rogue Kiefer who can still get loud and feisty at the drop of a hat--and Lorelei and I wandered over to the biography section. We were looking for books on Georgia O'Keefe; Lorelei's class was learning about her in art and Lorelei was pretty intrigued and curious to know more. She also humored me and said "yes" to wanting a book on Joan of Arc, too. So we got one two on Georgia and one on Joan…it clearly was Famous Woman Day at the library for us.
We got home and read Joan of Arc over dinner. And I immediately realized how serious a story it is for a Step into Reading book. Shana Corey does a wonderful job of putting such a huge, serious story into digestible sentences and using the right words for this reading level. But it's still an incredible, sobering story. I was glad to be there to answer the many questions that came up. "What's a vision? How could they fight for 100 years? Why couldn't women fight? What does prisoner mean?" But Lorelei and Ben were all ears--the book smartly starts with Joan looking for a sword for her journey, so Ben was captivated by the thought of a voice telling her where a sword was located. As the book follows Joan from a village to the prince, and then on to battle, the kids were spellbound. They asked a few times, "This is really nonfiction?"
And then the book came to the final pages. Joan is, you probably know, captured and put on trial. If she lies and says she does not hear the voices, she'll escape her punishment of burning at the stake. She does not lie--she stays true to herself and to God and therefore is tied to the stake and the fire is lit. Needless to say, the kids were still spellbound at that part…and there were a few more follow-up questions to be answered.
AND needless to say, I rolled my own eyes at myself for getting a book with a young girl burning at the stake for my nearly 7 year old and 5 year old! Did I cross the line this time and go overboard on wanting to teach anything and everything as soon as possible? But…if not now, when? These stories are part of history and part of my own Catholic background and…even part of a Frozen song. And we read the book together, I answered my kids' questions patiently and honestly, and the kids know I'll be around if they have more thoughts on the inspiring but shocking story of a very famous woman in history.