The butterfly

Author Polacco, Patricia.
Language English
New York: Philomel Books, 2000


During the Nazi occupation of France, Monique's mother hides a Jewish family in her basement and tries to help them escape to freedom.

Subjects :

  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Juvenile fiction
  • Fiction
  • Jews

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Author Illustrator(s) :

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Best Books :

  • Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 13th Edition, 2002 National Council of Teachers of English
  • Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 Bank Street College of Education
  • Best of the Bunch, 2000 Association of Jewish Librarians
  • Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson
  • Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 H.W. Wilson
  • Children's Literature Choice List, 2001 Children's Literature
  • Kirkus Book Review Stars, June 1, 2000
  • Lasting Connections, 2000 American Library Association
  • Lasting Connections, 2000 Book Links
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2001 National Council for the Social Studies NCSS
  • School Library Journal Book Review Stars, May 2000 Cahners
  • Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association, 2001 Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association
  • Teachers' Choices, 2001 International Reading Association

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 2001 Winner United States
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2003 Winner Pennsylvania
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, 2001 Honor Book United States

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State & Provincial Reading List :

  • Beehive Book Award, 2002; Nominee Utah
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2002-2003; Nominee Pennsylvania
  • Sequoyah Book Award, 2003; Nominee Oklahoma
  • South Carolina Children's Book Award, 2003-2004; Nominee South Carolina
  • Texas Reading Club, 2003; Texas
  • Utah Children's Book Awards, 2002; Nominee Utah

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Reading Measurement Programs:

Philomel Books (New York:) 2000.

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Lower Grade
Book Level 3.8
Accelerated Reader Points 0

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.

Lexile Measure 430
Accelerated Reader Points

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 3-5
Reading Level 4
Accelerated Reader Points 3

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Reviews :

Hazel Rochman (Booklist, April 1, 2000 (Vol. 96, No. 15))
In a quiet author's note, Polacco tells the true story on which this picture book is based. Her aunt Monique was a child in France during the Nazi occupation. Monique didn't know that her mother was active in the French Resistance and was hiding a Jewish family in the cellar of her house. Told from the child's viewpoint, the facts are spellbinding: Monique's discovery of the hidden refugee child, Sevrine, the end of the girls' strong friendship when the Jewish family is forced to flee and face the Nazi patrols. Unfortunately, the storytelling and pictures are melodramatic and sentimental. The sustained metaphor of the title refers to a fragile butterfly that Monique brings to Sevrine in hiding. It flutters "like the kiss of an angel," but is crushed in the fist of an ominous Nazi. In the end Monique sees a group of butterflies flying free and takes that as a sign that her friend is safe. What will hold grade-school kids is the truth of the friendship story and the tension of hiding to survive. Category: For the Young. 2000, Putnam/Philomel, $16.99. Ages 5-9.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)
Drawing from the experience of family members, Polacco takes us back to a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II. What young Monique first thinks is a ghost in her room turns out to be a young Jewish girl, Severine, being hidden with her parents in Monique's basement. The girls steal moments of pleasure together. But fear of discovery forces the family to move on. The butterfly becomes a symbol of freedom. Polacco's lengthy but very readable text brings alive the joy of the girls' time together and the terror of discovery by the Nazis. The village and some of its occupants are introduced in the several pages before the text begins, so that we already feel the anxiety produced by the Nazis as well as the humanity of Monique's mother. Character is created in the sequence of portraits as events evoke emotions of horror, sorrow, friendly pleasures and familial security. The scenes are detailed where important, but otherwise exploit the potentials of color to help tell the story most effectively. A note from the author fills in the historical background. 2000, Philomel Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, $16.99. Ages 6 to 10.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
Once again, readers are introduced to members of Patricia Polacco's extended family. The setting is France during the Nazi occupation of WWII. Her great aunt Marcel Solliliage and her daughter Monique became a part of the French Resistance. They risked their lives to hide Jews in an effort to help them escape the fate the so many suffered. The story is filled with tension, symbolism and the brutality of the occupation, and the mistreatment of the Jews is not whitewashed. Young Monique grew up fast when she learned that her mother was sheltering a Jewish family and she resolved to keep the secret. Unfortunately, she and the daughter of the family were seen by a neighbor and they had to flee. Only the daughter survived as the Author's Note reveals. While a picture book, this story is for older readers--it requires an understanding or a bit more of an explanation of WWII and the persecution of the Jews. 2000, Philomel, $16.99. Ages 8 up.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2000 (Vol. 68, No. 11))
During the Nazi occupation of France, Monique discovers that a young Jewish girl named Serine has been hidden in her cellar. It is a surprise to Monique that her mother and father have been sheltering the family, but she does not let on that she knows. The girls visit and play together in the evening when the rest of the household is asleep. "They laughed and giggled, and told each other their dreams." Although frightened by the presence of Nazi soldiers in her village, their friendship grows, and Monique brings gifts to Serine from the outside world: rich soil, a bright flower, and finally a real wonder, a butterfly. A neighbor catches a glimpse of Serine, and the family must flee. This is another one of Polacco's ("Thank You Mr. Falker", 1998) family stories based on real events and retold in a dramatic picture book for older readers. The strikingly detailed marker and pencil illustrations bring forth the fear, deprivation, and small joys of the time. The richness of the illustrations from the blue-patterned teacups to the gallery of dog portraits that adorn a staircase evokes a strong sense of time and place. Polacco uses a palette of pinks and pastels that are quickly overshadowed by grays, black, and red to evoke Monique's growing realizations of the oppression, danger, and darkness of the moment. A strong contrast comes at the end when hope returns in the form of dozens of bright orange-and-black butterflies. Polacco's choice of monarchs to depict the butterflies emphasizes the miraculous nature of this occurrence because, although these butterflies are abundant in North America, they are rarely sighted in Europe. A portrait of friendship, courage, and hope. (author's note) 2000, Philomel, $16.99. Category: Picture book. Ages 6 to 10. Starred Review. © 2000 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Polacco continues to mine her family history, this time telling the story of an aunt's childhood in wartime France. Young Monique doesn't comprehend the brutality of the Nazis' mission--until the day three German soldiers find her admiring a butterfly. "Joli, n'est-ce pas?" says one to Monique, then grabs the butterfly and crushes it in his fist. The butterfly, or papillon as it is frequently called here, becomes for Monique a symbol of the Nazis' victims. Her sympathies are quickly focused: one night Monique wakes up to discover a girl in her bedroom and learns that she and her parents, Jews, have been hiding for months in Monique's house, protected by Monique's mother. The girl, Sevrine, has been forbidden to leave the hiding place, so she and Monique meet secretly. Then a neighbor sees the two girls at the window one night, and Sevrine's family must flee. As an afterword reveals, only Sevrine survives, contacting Monique by letter--with a drawing of a butterfly. In comparison with the seeming spontaneity of the author's Pink and Say, this tale's use of the butterfly symbolism gives it a slightly constructed or manipulated feel. Even so, the imagery and the dramatic plot distill for young readers the terrors and tragic consequences of the Nazi regime and the courageousness of resisters. Ages 4-8. (May)
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Kate McDowell (The Bulletin of the Center for Children s Books, June 2000 (Vol. 53, No. 10))
Monique awakens in the middle of the night to the sight of a ghost child sitting on the end of her bed, who runs away before Monique can speak to her. When she tells her mother what she has seen, her mother firmly tells her that it was only a dream. Living just outside of Paris during World War II, Monique and her friends are beginning to see frightening changes in their neighborhood, as Nazis dominate the streets and some Jewish neighbors are taken away. Unbeknownst to Monique, her mother has been helping the French Resistance; eventually the ghost child is revealed as a Jewish girl named Sevrine who is living, with her family, in a secret part of Monique s cellar. Watercolor illustrations show figures in muted colors suffused with deep gray shadows that contrast starkly with blank white backgrounds, conveying the bleak harshness of the Nazi occupation. The faces of the two girls are expressively awkward in the spreads depicting their second nighttime meeting, where they sort out what they are both doing in the house ( Where do you live? Monique insisted. Here! Sevrine finally said. Here? Monique said with such surprise and so loudly that it might have awakened the whole neighborhood! But I live here! ). Unfortunately, the view of the Holocaust is somewhat sanitized (a note explains that some of the people upon whom the story was based suffered grim fates unmentioned in the story proper), and the plotting is wordy and illogical. Despite the sentimentality and convolutions, however, this is a sometimes moving and dramatic story of a child s perspective on the Holocaust and the French Resistance that retains the immediacy of Monique s understanding. Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2000, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2000, Philomel, 48p, $16.99. Grades 2-4.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

Sabrina Izbrand (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 13, No. 2))
Monique is sure she has seen a ghost; it is no ghost but a real little girl the same age as Monique. Sevrine and her family are Jews hiding from the Nazis in wartime France. Monique's mother, Marcel, has been hiding Jews for a long time. Servine and Monique's friendship grows but is cut short when a neighbor sees them. Servine and her family must flee. The book is based on a true story about simple friendship and quiet heroism. This story is typical of Patricia Polacco's stories relating historical events from the perspective of a young person. Her illustrations are a welcome addition to the powerful writing. The story is accurate, although at times a bit overdramatic--especially the Nazi soldier crushing the butterfly, an obvious symbol of freedom. The story is interesting, and the follow-up from Patricia Polacco lends credibility to the story. The story is about a terrible time in history and should be reviewed by the teacher due to the inherent nature of the material discussed in the book. There will be questions and the age level of students should be considered before making this book available to students. Grades 1-6. 2000, Philomel Books, Unpaged, $16.99. Ages 6 to 12.
(PUBLISHER: Philomel Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c2000.)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
New York: Philomel Books, 2000

Media Type: Language Material
1 v. (unpaged):
PZ7.P75186 ([Fic])

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