Inspired by the life of World War II spy Virginia Hall, this biographical tale highlights her many facets and adventurous spirit.
Good story aside, Gary Kelley’s pastel illustrations are exceptional as always, not only for their realism but for their beauty and ability to engage the emotions of the viewer ... This inspiring biography for ages 6 and up has a number of lessons to impart, including the dangers (rather than oft-touted “glamour”) of wartime and the ways in which a disability doesn’t necessarily mean one cannot live a full life making many contributions to the welfare of others. And frankly, even aside from the story, any book illustrated by Gary Kelley is worth perusing for the art.
–Rhapsody in Books Blog, 08/18/2022
The only woman awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross during World War II, Virginia Hall (1906-1982) was always “most original.” Growing up in Baltimore, Virginia “was different from most girls of her time,” hunting, fishing, and collecting wild animals. Virginia’s “hunger to explore” led her to work for the U.S. Foreign Service in Turkey, where she shattered her left foot in a hunting accident, resulting in amputation below her knee. Undaunted, Virginia learned to walk with a wooden prosthesis, moved to Paris, and witnessed the German invasion and occupation of France. Volunteering as an ambulance driver until Paris surrendered, Virginia then became the first female undercover agent for the British, gathering information and assisting British pilots. Fleeing France, Virginia hiked over the snow-covered Pyrenees into Spain but eventually returned to France as an American spy disguised as a French milkmaid, transmitting radio messages about German troops and leading a French resistance group until the war ended. Repetition of the refrain, “Virginia was Virginia,” punctuates the factual text, introducing each amazing stage of her life. The book opens with a photo of Virginia’s passport, and Kelley’s realistic illustrations, appropriately rendered in somber hues, stark outlines, and arresting angles, highlight dramatic episodes. Suspenseful close-ups of Virginia spying on German soldiers in the French countryside add to the wartime atmosphere. A fascinating introduction to a remarkable life.