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The Language of Fire
Cover of The Language of Fire
The Language of Fire
Joan of Arc Reimagined
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The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France. This extraordinary...
The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France. This extraordinary...
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  • The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

    This extraordinary verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill dares to imagine how an ordinary girl became a great leader, and ultimately saved a nation.

    Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose—to save France.

    Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men's clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory.

    As a girl in a man's world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.

About the Author-

  • Stephanie Hemphill is the award-winning author of Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein; Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist; Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book; Sisters of Glass; and Things Left Unsaid: A Novel in Poems. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2019
    Hemphill (Fatal Throne, 2018, etc.), known for her verse biographies of young women, returns with the story of 15th-century Saint Joan of Arc. Jehanne, as the otherwise illiterate peasant girl spelled her name, was 13 years old when she first heard voices telling her she was to save France. It was 1425, and England and France were well into the fight for domination known as the Hundred Years' War. At 16, Jehanne convinced the captain of the French dauphin to take her to him. After showing Charles a vision of a golden crown, she rode as a soldier at the head of his army, raised the siege of Orléans, and saw him crowned Charles VII at Rheims. The next spring, however, she was captured by English factions, put on trial, and burned at the stake. In blank verse from Jehanne's point of view, Hemphill goes into extraordinary detail regarding the battles she fought and the men who did or did not support her--helped by the transcripts from Joan's actual trial, among the most detailed medieval records still extant. The decision described in her author's note to condense the holy voices Jehanne heard minimizes the elements of faith and piety; Jehanne is reduced to a protofeminist for modern readers. Also, the story slogs: It could have been half the length with twice the impact. Pick up David Elliott's Voices (2019) instead. (foreword, list of monarchs, author's note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 13, 2019
    Free verse poems written in the first person tell the familiar tale of the medieval teenage peasant prophesied to liberate France from England. Hemphill (Hideous Love) refers to Joan as Jehanne—as the book’s subject herself signed it—and covers her young life, beginning at age 13; her interactions with France’s leaders; her subsequent military victories; her capture by the English; and her trial for heresy and subsequent burning at the stake at age 19. The heroine’s early years are imagined filled with angst and frustration (“It’s not as if I ask to be/ the girl on the margins”), while her later adolescence brims with certainty about her call and mission as she travels among the soldiers she leads, braves repeated threats, and suffers battle wounds. An author’s note explores liberties taken with the historical record, such as condensing the three voices that Jehanne reported hearing into one. Extensive historical detail will prove fatiguing for most readers even as Hemphill’s interpretation of known events, including Jehanne’s argument that she be released from an arranged marriage and vivid renderings of her long imprisonment, bring a sense of frail humanity to this outsize historical figure. Ages 13–up.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2019

    Gr 7 Up-The Hundred Years' War consumes France as monarchs fight over the coveted throne. In a small French village, 13-year-old Jehanne hears a call from God to leave home and embark on a mission to ensure Charles VII is crowned King of France. With just a few years to complete her task, Jehanne builds an army, wins campaigns, and shocks the nation with her pursuits. However, her story is not as cut-and-dried as it seems, and her faith leads to unintended consequences at the hands of her countrymen. A clear passion project, Hemphill's rousing novel in verse breathes life into the tale of Joan of Arc, or Jehanne la Pucelle. While the book has a heavy start, the foreword of historical notes aids in clarifying Jehanne's time line and bookends nicely with the detailed bibliography at the closure. The use of traditional French names and spellings within the poems adds a sense of intimacy to Jehanne's struggles with gender, war, and faith. The free verse structure lends well to humanizing Jehanne beyond her known sainthood. Though a few moments feel choppy near the end, they are easily overlooked in favor of the empowering message to stay strong in one's beliefs, undeterred in fighting to be heard. VERDICT Those intrigued by Joan of Arc will enjoy this well-researched, if lengthy, tale of Jehanne la Pucelle.-Emily Walker, Lisle Library District, IL

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from May 1, 2019
    Grades 8-12 *Starred Review* There are many books that chronicle the story of Joan of Arc, but this extraordinary first-person novel in verse brings readers into the young woman's heart and soul. In short chapters and using an almost clipped narrative, this moves with alacrity through Joan's life, from her days as an illiterate farm girl to her visionary mission?making sure Charles, the dauphin, is crowned king of France?through the fighting that accomplishes the goal, and finally, to her imprisonment and horrifying death by fire. Throughout, readers experience Joan's puzzlement, determination, and reverence as she faces impossible odds to follow God's directive. Using extensive research (and fortunately there are primary sources to draw on), Hemphill both gives a personal account and explains the political situation between the French and English that roiled the two countries, all of which is bolstered by an author's end note that goes into the history of the 100 Years War. It's not easy to both tell a story and explain history, but Hemphill does both beautifully. The writing is often poetic with images that linger, especially once readers get inside Joan's head: that's when the story soars, and her commitment as well as her fears and doubts become clear. This is also a story of female empowerment, and there are important meditations on the expectations and perils girls and women face, then and always. A moving and in many ways motivating experience.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • ALA Booklist (starred review) "It's not easy to both tell a story and explain history, but Hemphill does both beautifully. The writing is often poetic with images that linger.... A moving and in many ways motivating experience."
  • Horn Book (starred review) "[An] engrossing first-person, present-tense verse novel... [that] humanizes [Joan of Arc] and makes her a sympathetic and relatable figure, even over six hundred years later."
  • School Library Journal "Hemphill's rousing novel in verse breathes life into the tale of Joan of Arc."
  • Kirkus Reviews Praise for HIDEOUS LOVE: "A . . . riveting portrait of the artist as a young woman."
  • School Library Journal Praise for HIDEOUS LOVE: "This present-tense novel in verse provides an intimate glimpse into Mary's life...Readers will identify the parallels between the creation of a monster and the creation of her famous book. "
  • Publishers Weekly Praise for HIDEOUS LOVE: "A gripping story"
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) Praise for WICKED GIRLS: "The expressive writing, masterful tension, and parallels to modern group dynamics create a powerful and relevant page-turner. "
  • Booklist (starred review) Praise for WICKED GIRLS: "An excellent supplementary choice for curricular studies of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, this will also find readers outside the classroom, who will savor the accessible, unsettling, piercing lines that connect past and present with timeless conflict and truths."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Praise for WICKED GIRLS: "In subtle, spare first-person free-verse poems, the author skillfully demonstrates how ordinary people may come to commit monstrous acts. Haunting and still frighteningly relevant."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) Praise for WICKED GIRLS: "The verse format is fresh and engaging, distilling the actions of the seven accusing girls into riveting narrative."
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Praise for WICKED GIRLS: "An atmospheric tale."

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Joan of Arc Reimagined
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