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The Butterfly Paperback – February 5, 2009


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin; Reprint edition (February 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142413062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142413067
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.4 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lying in bed one moonlit night, Monique awakens to see what she thinks is a little ghost sitting at the foot of her bed, petting her cat. In the time that her French village has been occupied by Nazi troops, Monique has come to believe that nothing can surprise her anymore. But when she discovers that the little ghost is in fact a Jewish girl named Sevrine, who is living in a hidden room in Monique's own basement, she is very surprised indeed! The two become secret friends, whispering and giggling late at night after their families have gone to bed. An unfortunate and alarming moment of discovery by a neighbor forces the girls to reveal their friendship to Monique's mother, who has been harboring Sevrine's family and others throughout the Nazi occupation.

Based on the true experiences of the author's great aunt, Marcel Solliliage, this poignant story is a good introduction to the terrors of Nazism, racism, and World War II. The emphasis is on simple friendship and quiet heroism, with an occasional lapse into clichéd metaphor (butterfly as symbol of freedom). Any child can relate to the bewilderment the two friends experience in the face of prejudice. Patricia Polacco has written and illustrated many other picture books, including Chicken Sunday and Pink and Say. (Ages 6 to 9) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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' missionAuntil 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 letterAwith 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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Read it to the high reading group of 2nd graders!
Montana girl
I have had my students read several of Patricia Polacco's books and they are beginning to understand what makes a good author a GREAT author.
hardworker
Polacco's lovely stories have appeal for all generations.
Lynne P. Caldwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm not quite sure why booklist would think it unfortunate that a book is sentamental and melodramatic. I feel this book reflects the Polacco style that we have all come to know and love. The voice is true, the artwork divine and the message is clear, yet not preachy. I think this is a wonderful book and a great way to open discussions about war and racism with children.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ford City Public Library on November 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Acquainting readers with holocaust history, The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco successfully maintains virtuosity to a war tale of sadness and tragedy while still exploring a delicate balance between the horrors of war and the childish innocence of two little girls cheerfully building a friendship. Based on the life experience of the author/illustrator's aunt Monique, the girl protagonist discovers that her family is hiding a Jewish family in her home.
Secretly meeting and playing together each night after the other members of the families sleep, Monique and Sevrine build a poetic friendship full of hope, happiness, and a childish energy that defies the boundaries between war cultures. After a neighbor catches sight of the girls playing too close to the window, the girls realize that the secret hiding place might be suspected. The plot races onward to an exciting climax as Monique and Sevrine must divulge not only their secret friendship but also the new danger to their parents. Escaping to a new hiding place, Sevrine's family is whisked away into the dark night of the unknown, while Monique hopes for her friend's safety. A symbolic butterfly fluttering through the French family's garden later assures Monique that her friend must be alive and safe. An author's note in the end pages assures readers that Sevrine did survive the holocaust-although her parents were not as fortunate.
The characters, while handled lightly in words, convey roundness in the authentic sense of emotions as they run the gamut of fear, comfort, hate, and love. Convincing as a memoir, The Butterfly successfully conveys the quiet strength of individuals amidst trial.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Katerina Canyon on April 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This story is about Monique, a little girl living in Nazi occupied France. One night she discovers what she believes to be a ghost sitting on her bed. Later Monique discovers that the figure she saw was not a ghost, but a little Jewish girl named Sevrine who was hiding from the Nazis in Monique's basement.
Monique and Sevrine become close night-time friends. They play in the shadows of the night as Sevrine hides from the Nazis. Then one day Sevrine is discovered. Sevrine and her family are forced to flee from this little French town.
I was tremendously moved by this story, and my nine-year old daughter loved it as well. Patricia Polaco does a wonderful job of putting such a trying and horrible situation in words that a child can understand. I highly recommend this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lynne P. Caldwell on March 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reviews state that THE BUTTERFLY has a target audience of ages 6-9 but I disagree! Polacco's lovely stories have appeal for all generations. Today is my daughter's birthday; she is a new 2nd grade teacher. My favorite gifts to her are six Patricia Polacco books. THE BUTTERFLY was written in honor of Polacco's great aunt, Marcelle Solliliage and her Aunt, Monique Gaw. Marcelle was part of the French underground and resistance during World War II. She bravely hid Jews in her home during the Nazi occupation. Monique was oblivious to these happenings until she met a young Jewish girl, Sevrine who happened to be hiding in the basement. A friendship developed that has endured many decades, right up to today! Polacco's exquisite story teaches the reader about true bravery, honor, and self-sacrifice (not to mention the history of a time not so long ago). How many of us would do today, as these valiant heroes have done many times in the past?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Monique finds her life changed by the Nazis during the war; but her real change comes when she discovers a Jewish girl is hiding from them in her own basement. The two become friends, but their friendship endangers their families. Good reading skills required for this fiction story of wartime friendships and experiences.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Meadows on March 2, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 3rd graders had asked a lot about Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust after one student had brought up the subject. I tried to make it understandable to that age group. But when I was searching some of Patricia Polacco's books for another unit, I came across The Butterfly. I decided this was the perfect way for my students to access the subject, by seeing it through the eyes of these 2 girls. My class was so quiet and focused as I read it. We talked about it a lot when I finished. As usual, Mrs. Polacco handles a tough subject with sensitivity and art that conveys the deeper meaning, yet in a way elementary students can handle. I am an even bigger fan of her after reading this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Polacco captivates young and old alike with this story of friendship and courage that is based on real events. Polacco brings the story of the Nazi occupation in France to her readers through a family hiding a Jewish family in their basement. Polacco uses rich water color illustrations to evoke feelings of fear and hope. Told from a child's point of view, this story opens the door to discussions of prejudism and racism during this time of national unrest.
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