Anaiah Press Blog Tour for Jacqueline by Jackie Minniti
When Jacqueline and her mother receive news that her father, a French soldier in World War II has been shot down, she refuses to give up hope that he’ll return home. She studies hard, prays to the saint in the book her father gave her, and visits the train yard where wounded prisoners arrive. As the Nazis who occupy her small French town begin to remove local Jews from the neighborhood, Jacqueline and her mother hide a boy in their home. Soon the Americans come to liberate France from German control, and Jacqueline befriends an American soldier who promises to help her find word about her father. The friendship changes both their lives.
I love World War II stories, and this tale is no exception. My daughter (in fifth grade) and I read Number the Stars this year, and I think Jacqueline would make a good companion novel to read as part of a World War II unit in the classroom as it shows a similar story about what was happening in another country during the war. The fact that this tale is based on a true story also gave it special meaning to me. I enjoyed feeling like I was sharing in a piece of history and one of those moments that humanity and generosity crosses national lines. Very cool stuff.
As far as the writing, the characters were entertaining. I especially liked the banter between Jacqueline and David and the way their relationship develops, particularly in the way they share the experience of grief.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Hi Jackie! Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions about your book. Can you tell me a little bit about the story of the real WWII veteran who inspired you to write Jacqueline?
Jacqueline is based on an experience my dad (a WWII vet, age 99) had while stationed in Rennes, France with the 127th General Hospital shortly after D-Day. Rennes had just been liberated after a brutal period of Nazi occupation, and the citizens were desperately poor. A little girl named Jacqueline began following my father to and from the military hospital where he worked as a pharmacist. Dad said she was like a little lost puppy. Since he spoke very little French, and she spoke no English, they learned to communicate by teaching each other words and phrases and using hand gestures. Their friendship blossomed, and when the 127th was transferred to another city, Jacqueline came to the hospital carrying a loaf of bread and a book as goodbye gifts. This was a huge sacrifice since she had so little. It was New Year’s Day, and sleet was falling. Jacqueline was wearing a sweater and was shivering with cold, so my dad wrapped her in his coat. He was so touched that he promised her if he ever had a daughter, he would name her Jacqueline. This was the only war story Dad was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore.
That gives me chills. How awesome to be able to take that cherished family memory and share it with th world in your book. What was it about this real life event that inspired you to write a novel for middle readers?
After I retired from teaching and began writing, my father started “hinting” that I should write a book about Jacqueline. I explained that while there might be enough material for a short story, there wasn’t enough for an entire novel, and though our family loved the story, there wasn’t an audience for it. But this didn’t deter my dad, and the hints continued. Several years later, at my son’s wedding reception, one of the guests approached me. “Your father’s been telling me the most amazing story,” he said. “He tells me you’re a writer. You should write a book about it.” I started to explain why it couldn’t be done, but he stopped me. “I have a daughter in 6th grade. She doesn’t know anything about WWII, and she’d love to read a book like this. It could help her learn history.” That was the “Eureka!” moment for me. I can’t explain why it never occurred to me to write the book for younger readers, especially since I’d spent so many years teaching reading in middle school. And the real Jacqueline was the same age as my students, so she’d make a perfect protagonist for a middle grade novel. Once I started thinking of the story in those terms, the plot began to take shape, and I couldn’t wait to start writing.
Haha! That’s awesome. It’s funny how sometimes all it takes is that pivotal change in our expectations that really kicks inspiration into high gear. Were there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in the novel?
Jacqueline was definitely my favorite character since I feel like I’ve known her all my life. I would have liked to include more detail about her life before she lost her father, but I didn’t have any information to base it on. And I felt that the day she received the news about him being shot down was a natural place for the story to begin.
I can see how you’d feel that pressure to stay faithful to the real story and yet also have that curiosity about her larger life. That definitely resonates with me as a reader of the story. But I think you made the right choice for the point at which to begin. What do you most hope that readers take away from Jacqueline?
We are losing our WWII veterans at over 600 per day, and their stories are disappearing with them. I think it’s essential to preserve these stories for future generations. I want kids to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that the Greatest Generation made to secure the freedoms they now enjoy and how blessed they are to live in this country. I don’t think today’s students have a thorough understanding of American history, and I see that as a problem. I’m a firm believer that if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it, and I hope that Jacqueline will help keep that from happening.
Wow. I didn’t realize we were losing so many veterans so quickly. My grandfather was a navigator during World War II and was shot down. He survived and returned home to us, but passed away several years ago. Reading stories about servicemen always makes me think of him. I agree with you about how important it is for us to remember our history. What are you most looking forward to reading next?
I’ve been wanting to read The Book Thief because a lot of people have compared it to Jacqueline. I didn’t read it while I was writing Jacqueline because I didn’t want it to bleed into my story, but I plan to read it soon.
That’s a GREAT choice. It’s my number one favorite book. I can see why people compare it to Jacqueline because of Liesl’s character, the loss of her family, and the friendship between her and Rudy. The style and voice are very different. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks again for your time.
For more information on Jacqueline by Jackie Minniti or to visit other stops on the blog tour, click here.