For Freedom

For Freedom

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


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Despite the horrors of World War II, a French teen pursues her dream of becoming an opera singer, which takes her to places where she gains information about what the Nazis are doing—information the French Resistance needs. Based on a true story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756950910
Publisher: Random House Childrens Books
Publication date: 01/28/2005
Pages: 181
Sales rank: 520,672
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For me the war began on May 29, 1940. I was thirteen years old.

It was a Wednesday, the day we studied catechism and had choir practice and then had the afternoon free. Of course, I had to remain after choir to rehearse my solo, but when that was finished I found my friend Yvette. Together we went to Soeur Margritte.

S’il vous plaît, please, Soeur Margritte, may we go down to the beach?” we asked.

Our convent school was high among the hills of Cherbourg; school was farther from the beach than my own home. But while we were not permitted home except on weekends, we were sometimes permitted to go about town. Yvette and I were good students, well behaved. Always follow the rules, my papa told me, and you will be all right. I always did, and I always was.

“We will take our homework,” Yvette said.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” I said.

“We will be back before supper,” we chorused.

France had been at war with Germany for nearly six months, yet there had been so little fighting that it seemed to mean nothing. The German army had spread across Europe, almost unopposed; neither the French nor the British had done much to stop them. There were English soldiers stationed in Cherbourg—I saw them when Maman and I went to the market on Saturdays—but they were quiet and polite and never bothered anyone. I couldn’t imagine them actually fighting. Some days it was hard to believe we were in a real war.

Which is not to say we weren’t paying attention. We listened to the radio and read the newspaper reports with increasing dread. We knew Hitler was coming; we feared that nothing could stop him. Papa and Maman talked in low voices at the dinner table, and sometimes Papa pounded his fist on the table and swore. “That Hitler!” he would say. “That cursed son of Satan!”

But I was only thirteen. My brothers, Pierre and Etienne, were fourteen and sixteen, too young to be soldiers; Etienne was lame as well. And I was studying to be a famous opera singer. I loved singing like nothing else. At Christmas I had sung a solo in the church choir, Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” and our director had said I was talented and should pursue a career. So now I had a music tutor, Madame Marcelle; I took special voice lessons twice a week and practiced hard every day.

So it was not that I was not paying attention to the war, but that I never thought the war could hurt me.

“Yes,” Soeur Margritte decided. She was the nicest of the sisters. “It’s a beautiful day, and who knows how many carefree days we have left. You may go. Have a nice time—but do your homework!”

We skipped down the cobblestone streets. The wind blowing in from the Channel tousled our skirts, pulled at our hair. I sang an aria from Carmen as we drew closer. Carmen was my favorite opera. I knew most of the part of Carmen, but I still could not reach some of the high notes.

“Oh, tais-toi,” said Yvette, rolling her eyes at me. “Be quiet. Singing, always singing. I bet you sing in your sleep.”

I probably did sing in my sleep. Someday I would sing in Paris. I dreamed of it all the time. “I’ll ask Odette,” I said. Odette was one of my roommates. I hummed a few notes, then began again. “Ah! je t’aime, Escamillo, je t’aime, et que je meure si j’ai jamais aimé quelqu’un autant que toi! Ah, I love you, Escamillo, I love you, and may I die if I have ever loved anyone as much as you!”

Yvette grinned. “What a horrible song!” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, flung her arm out dramatically, and began to sing, “Savez-vous planter les choux? Do you know how to plant cabbages?” A simple nursery song. Her voice wobbled, up, down, down, up.

Singing is a talent. You have it or you don’t.

“Come on!” I said, running toward the sea.

We went to the Place Napoléon, the big square near the Gare Maritime, the station where trains could pull right up to the harbor to load and unload the ships. The Church of La Trinité formed part of the square, and from the benches around the edge we could watch the ships in the harbor, the waves curling, and the birds wheeling overhead. People strolled back and forth across the square.

We settled onto a bench in the sun. I opened my history book. History was my favorite subject. Yvette sniffed the air as though it were a flower. “It’s so nice to be outside,” she said, “after being stuck in that stuffy school all day. You’re not going to start with the books already, are you? Let’s talk.”

“Okay.” I closed my book and looked around. “The harbor’s empty. That’s odd.” Cherbourg had an important harbor; before the war big ships had come often. I had been on the Queen Elizabeth once, when she was docked at Cherbourg.

Yvette looked too. “Not really,” she said. “It’s such a pretty day. If I had a boat, I’d take it out today too.”

Bonjour, Yvette,” came a woman’s pleasant voice. “Bonjour, Suzanne.”

Bonjour, madame,” we said. Our friend Madame Montagne waved to us as she came nearer. Her little son, Simon, skipped down to the water’s edge and threw rocks into the waves. The Montagnes lived near Yvette’s family, and Madame Montagne was Yvette’s mother’s friend. Since I was Yvette’s best friend, I had known Madame Montagne for years.

“Where’s Marie?” I asked. Marie was her daughter, two years old, a beautiful child with wide blue eyes.

“With her grandmother,” Madame Montagne said. She patted her bulging belly happily. She was going to have a baby very soon; we often talked to her about it. Yvette was knitting her a pair of tiny booties. “I have grown too fat and I can’t carry her this far. But Simon wanted to walk down to the beach. It’s such a pretty day.” She looked up. “Is that a plane?”

There was a far-off buzzing noise. It did sound like a plane.

Salut, Simon!” Yvette yelled. Simon waved to her.

I hummed a scale to myself, D minor, as I found my place in my history book again.

The buzzing noise grew louder.

“Simon!” called Madame Montagne. “Do not get your shoes wet! Stay out of the water!” She started to walk toward him.

Suddenly the noise turned into a roar. Planes swarmed overhead, many of them, their engines fast and loud.

I jumped to my feet. My books slid to the ground. Yvette turned toward me, her eyes wide. She said something I didn’t hear.

The beach, the square, exploded.

From the Hardcover edition.

Reading Group Guide

1. Suzanne says, “I didn’t want to let the war affect me.” (p. 13) How does Suzanne try to avoid the affects of the war? Explain her father’s comment, “Obey the rules and no one gets hurt.” (p. 31) How does Suzanne violate her father’s warning?

2. Describe the mood in Cherbourg, France, on May 29, 1940. How does witnessing a bomb attack change the lives of Suzanne and her friend Yvette? Suzanne says, “Of all the sadness the war had brought, Yvette was the worst for me.” (p. 43) How is Yvette a war casualty? In the beginning, Suzanne goes to see Yvette often, but she grows to dread her visits. She says, “I went only for the sake of her mother.” (p. 124) Discuss why Yvette’s mother needs Suzanne.

3. What are the qualities of a good spy? Discuss how Dr. Leclerc knows that Suzanne will be a good spy. How does Suzanne maintain her bravery during her days as a spy? Discuss whether Suzanne ever considered that she was putting her family in danger. What is her father’s reaction when he learns that she has been a spy? How is he both afraid and proud?

4. The Germans force Suzanne and her family to leave their house. Suzanne says, “I wished I had taken my baby album from the house and left my winter coat behind.” (p. 83) Discuss why childhood memories are so important to her. How do childhood memories contribute to her willingness to become a spy? Suzanne says, “For many years I tried to forget the things that happened to me in the war, but now I find I want to remember.” (p. 181) Why are these memories so important to her as an adult?

5. Contrast the way Suzanne and her family learns news about the war to the way the world hears news about war today.

6. Suzanne receives the Croix de Lorraine from General Charles de Gaulle for her work during the French Resistance. How does this medal honor her courage? Why is she so proud that de Gaulle knows who she is?

For more activities on Images of War, see these titles: For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Lord of the Nutcracker by Iain Lawrence, Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers adapted for young people by Michael French, The Gadget by Paul Zindel, and Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.

Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.

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For Freedom 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was such a good book i hardly put it down!! Very captivating and beautifully written!! Recommended to all types of readers!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book is AWESOMMMMMEEEEE! Every word made me want to read more. If you love adventure, defiantly read this!
Liselle Thomson More than 1 year ago
This may be one of my favorite books i've ever read, amazing!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Im so in the whole war thing. This book really showed me how tricky things where for the french spys!!! It scared me,shocked me,and suprised me soooo much! READ IT AND YOU WILL LOVE IT!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great.
manders204 More than 1 year ago
Amazing Book that really changed and makes me think more about the second world war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And now he's here to (bleep) us!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read! It was very inspirational and courageous. Even though it was shorter than what I thought it would be, "For Freedom" it still deserves five stars. Well written and one of the best books I have read. I also find "Someone Named Eva" an interesting book to also read for WW2 readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was beautifully written. Best i have read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book and you will not want to put it down.
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EffieTX More than 1 year ago
I was really kind of disappointed...its pretty short, and the "hero" of the story was just perfect...and she apparently will be the first to tell you that. The characters were never really developed and at the end she apparently just drops everything and everybody she was supposed to love so much.....
Karen Hernandez More than 1 year ago
great historical fiction novel!
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otulissa More than 1 year ago
My favorite historical fiction novel ever. You really care for the chracters and the Suzanne is a likeable protagonist that will have cheering for the resistance.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a true story about a french girl named Suzanne David who became a spy to stop the nazis. This girl actually lived. If you like really good books then this is for you.