Sunday 22 July 2012

Demi Joan of Arc

I think it's safe to say that I've become mildly obsessed by Joan of Arc. As with all great obsessions, it all began simply enough. I read Jim Leavesley's Mere Mortals and Joan was one of the people he featured. I've read a few other junior nonfiction books about Joan since. I saw this book on The Fourth Musketeer last year, and ordered it that night. 

I'd never heard of the author/illustrator Demi before. She is an American author/illustrator who has created over 100 books! She appears to specialize in picture book biographies often of spiritual figures. Her titles include Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa. I'll be interested to see more of her work. 

Demi has created such a beautiful book about Joan of Arc. Naturally she covers the basics of Joan's story, her childhood in rural France. Her three brothers and her sister. Joan was quite religious from an early age. She would pray in the fields to feel the presence of God. She "deeply felt the injustice of the invaders" from England and Burgundy, and "frequently prayed for the deliverance of France." Joan was visited by her heavenly voices for three years before she was stirred to action. 

Demi really has it in for the Dauphin Charles, repeatedly remarking on his lack of courage. When Joan first arrives to see the (the cowardly) Dauphin he worries that she might be an evil sorceress and sends her to be examined by powerful members of the church. This takes three weeks! Charles refuses to go to Reims after Joan has secured freedom for Orleans, because he didn't want "his easy life and royal existence disturbed."

Joan was injured by an arrow to the thigh during her first defeat near Paris. The French commander at Compiegne locked her out of the city. She was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English. At her trial Joan, still only 19, stood before 44 men who questioned her Catholic faith. Her death sentence (for wearing men's clothes) was read out to her in a cemetery, which is a rather macabre touch, perhaps designed to make her confess. Joan did sign a confession, but then recanted almost immediately.

Demi tells us that everyone wept as Joan died in the marketplace of Rouen. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Reading out death sentences in cemeteries is one thing, but burning young women to death in the marketplace? Awful. 

In a note from Demi at the start of the book she describes how she studied the "exquisite medieval art of the fifteenth century: illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, architecture, painting and sculpture." And it shows in the gorgeous illustrations, and the attention to detail. 

Demi also states that she read "all the children's books on Saint Joan", and she regards Joan of Arc by Herself and her Witnesses by Regine Pernoud as the most inspirational. I wonder when my TBR will actually shrink instead of grow when I read a book?

Paris in July is cohosted by Karen at BookBath and Tamara
 at Thyme for Tea 

An Illustrated Year is hosted by An Abundance of Books.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

The illustrations here are enchanting. I always found the Joan story fascinating as a child and followed many of the later interpretations (Saint Joan, The Lark, etc.) but never read much since I "grew up." Thanks for bringing this one to light!