Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Peasant Girl Turned Soldier Turned Saint in Demi’s “Joan Of Arc”

"Joan Of Arc" by Demi

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Demi is such a remarkable and prolific artist that it is difficult to keep track of her many published works. Our current reading theme on biographies is perfect for the theme of most of her works which usually feature the life story narratives of eminent individuals coming from different parts of the world. This one comes from France.

Joan Of Arc

Written and Illustrated by Demi
Published by Two Lions (2011)
ISBN-10: 0761459537
ISBN-13: 9780761459538
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I remember learning about Joan of Arc when I was in high school. I went to an all-girls private school run by nuns (the Augustinian Recollect sisters), and it was par for the course for us to learn about the lives of saints. And Joan of Arc ranked very highly among the saints, mainly because she was female and was a soldier at that.

In this picturebook biography (PBB), I get to know more about Joan’s beginnings, when she was born in 1412 in France, a fairly simple girl who lived in a farm with her parents, three brothers and one sister. She lived an unassuming but meaningful life – one that took care of the downtrodden, weak, infirm.

Joan also lived during a time of unrest and turmoil, with huge countries attempting to vanquish and conquer smaller and lesser-protected cities. Hence, Joan knew about the English and Burgundians killing off her countrymen in France. When Joan turned 13, she had a vision that told her exactly what she must do to deliver her country from invaders, and to ensure that the heir to the throne be crowned the rightful King.

Reading this book reminded me of just how starkly different her reality was from ours with the hearing of voices, the ardent and unswerving faith and belief, and the willingness to act on God’s plan as manifested through visions.

While most readers may be familiar about the tragic ending to this narrative, what struck me the most was Joan’s courage that emboldened the men under her command to defend their country, and her strong faith that she is living her life as God wills it. This level of surrender is very rarely seen in contemporary times when interpersonal relationships are viewed more as transactions and negotiations. Such a leap of faith seems foreign now to most readers, young and old alike. This is the reason why the first quote used by Demi served to really bring home the very essence of Joan’s existence:

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
Joan of Arc

Teachers would also be happy to note that the Author’s Foreword found at the beginning of the story listed the resources Demi used to make the narrative come alive for the reader, as well as the artistic style she employed to illuminate Joan of Arc’s story.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: France

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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