Carla Jablonski's Resistance Effort
Noted children’s author Carla Jablonski teams up with artist Leland Purvis in the wonderful Resistance trilogy, set against the backdrop of World War II France. It’s a tough, historically accurate look at one family’s struggle to remain together (and alive) during this tumultuous time while also living up to their own political and moral ideals of what is right. With Book 2, Defiance, recently out, we talked to Carla about how this remarkable series came to life.
Tell us a little bit about Book 2—how do you feel it continues the overall story you’re planning to tell in this trilogy?
I set each book a year apart so that life becomes more difficult and the stakes keep rising. This also means that the characters change and develop, since they are three years older by the end of the series. By covering this amount of time, some hardships become almost normal while the risk-taking escalates. I wanted the trilogy to begin just as the occupation of this particular part of France was starting and to end with the liberation of Paris. That felt like a satisfying and organic resolution. In Book 2: Defiance, the kids’ involvement with the Resistance becomes more extensive—and therefore more dangerous.
What inspired you to write the Resistance trilogy?
The Iraq War got me thinking about what it might be like to live in a country another country has entered. We in the United States have never experienced occupation, but so many countries—including the countries of my distant relatives—have. One of the things that particularly struck me was how in hindsight, choices seem obvious but at the time, it must have been so unclear what the right course of action might be. I wanted to explore the shifting dynamics as an ordinary family tries to figure out how to live in new, shocking, and difficult circumstances.
Is the family at the heart of the story based on any actual family?
It’s not one specific family, but a composite of a number of different people’s experiences, combined with a lot of imagination.
How much research do you do on this project? It must be extensive, given the amount of historically accurate information you’re providing in these books.
LOTS! I love research, so that was a complete pleasure. I find doing extensive research is very inspiring, gives me ideas, and helps me to inhabit the world of the characters. I do this even for books that aren’t even set in another period of history—I’ve taken SAT sample tests to get a sense of what a character would be studying and explored the Cloisters to find the right spot for a scene to take place.
For the Resistance Trilogy I read a lot of memoirs and books that included letters and diaries, so I developed a sense of what it must have been like and the scope of the Resistance experiences. I wanted to be sure that even if an event in the book didn’t actually happen, it could have, and that the characters represented the range of emotions and attitudes I’d read in first-person accounts.
One book I read early on, Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup, made me decide to have the story revolve around a family with a winery because there were such interesting narrative and visual possibilities. And because this was going to be a graphic novel, I also watched propaganda films and looked at many, many images before I even started. I even took drawing classes to train myself to think more visually.
What kind of references does artist Leland Purvis use to re-create France in the 1940s?
Leland is also a research and history lover, so he enjoys finding all kinds of sources for inspiration, and he’d been to Paris and seen the walls of skulls that appear in Book 1. I also sent him images I was finding at the New York Public Library Picture Collection, which is a great resource.
Are any plot points of this series based on experiences your own relatives faced during World War II?
Have you encountered schools that use these books in order to help teach history?
Not that I’m aware of, but I do know Book 1: Resistance was selected for a number of “best of” lists, including those recommending books to use in the classroom, so it’s possible they are. I was also contacted by a French teacher asking for a French-language version of the trilogy to teach both French and French history, which I think would be great, but alas, so far there aren’t translated versions….
What can readers expect in Book 3?
Everything is escalating—the war effort, the German vigilance and crackdowns, the Tessier’s actions. And the reader will learn what happens to everyone after the trilogy ends.