“Sit down, Grandpa. I have to show you something.” Daniel followed his grandfather to the couch and settled himself beside him. He pulled out his phone. “I’ve been following the village of Sainte-Regine’s Facebook page—”
“Let me tell you right now that I don’t do Facebook or Nosebook or any-other-part-of-the-body-book. And I don’t tweet. I’m not a bird. I don’t need any fancy gadget to know about Sainte-Regine.”
“Here’s one thing you might not know about Sainte-Regine,” Daniel said seriously. “Not everybody there thinks you ought to be invited back for this ceremony.”
The old man shrugged. “There are always a couple of cranks.”
“I thought so too. At first. I’ve been following this page ever since we bought our plane tickets. Most of the town is excited to welcome you. But there’s this group. They call themselves La Verite—it means The Truth.”
“I know what it means,” his grandfather put in irritably. “I was in France, you know. I walked across most of it.”
“But listen to this”—Daniel read from his phone screen—“’Jacob Firestone does not deserve to be honored. He has French blood on his hands.’ Grandpa, what do they mean by that?”
In 2020, 12-year-old World War II buff Trevor Firestone likes nothing better than playing simulated war games for hours on end and reminiscing with his great grandfather about the elder man’s service during the war. When G. G. is invited to Sainte-Regine, France, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Allied forces liberating the village from the Nazis, Trevor is gung-ho to accompany him. Only Trevor’s father, Daniel, seems concerned about the trip—based on Facebook comments he has read, posted by a group calling themselves La Verite, suggesting that G. G. “has French blood on his hands.”
The novel toggles back and forth between the present (in which Trevor, his dad, and G. G. make a pilgrimage to all G. G.’s wartime haunts) and the past (in which 17-year-old Jacob recounts his enlistment, basic training, and war service). Fans of Korman’s more humorous novels will appreciate Jacob’s prankster tendencies which add a light touch to what is otherwise a grueling and deadly slog: landing on the beaches of Normandy, fighting through the hedgerows, defusing a bridge before it detonates, and being rescued by the French Resistance. As the trio gets closer to Sainte-Regine, G. G. grows progressively more somber—in keeping with the difficult memories stirred up by the French countryside. The secret of why La Verite despises G. G. (Jacob inadvertently disclosed the location of the safe house where he recovered from injuries, causing the Germans to destroy it and the family living there) is well-handled, and Korman makes the point that real war is rarely glorious or heroic. In the end, Trevor comes to accept G. G. as a less-than-perfect but still admirable individual who tried to do his best, even if he sometimes fell short. War Stories is an engrossing and much needed dose of reality for those who idolize war and war games.
Kay Weisman is a former youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.