- Age Range: 6 - 9 years
- Grade Level: 1 - 4
- Lexile Measure: 0430 (What's this?)
- Paperback: 48 pages
- Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (February 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0142413062
- ISBN-13: 978-0142413067
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.2 x 11 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Butterfly Paperback – February 5, 2009
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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 Library Binding 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 Library Binding edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Perfect as a delicate and sophisticated handling of a cruel time in history, The Butterfly provides an appropriate way to dialogue with children about the uglier side of humanity-without crossing into the gruesome or blatantly shocking (although also true) stories of war that sometimes make war books inappropriate for younger children. The Butterfly provides allusions to war crimes that will be understood by older children while still providing an eye-opening tale of friendship to younger children. Targeting the age range of 6-9, The Butterfly adeptly provides insight into the beauty of life while describing life's fragility.
Known as the author/illustrator of numerous books including Pink and Say, Patricia Polacco's pencil and watercolor illustrations highlight the contrast between the cruel and the innocent. The dust jacket of the book is a perfect symbol of the juxtaposition between innocence and cruelty since the front side of the cover depicts irises, a butterfly, and a young girl with warm watercolor tones and delicate chiaroscuro while flipping the book over reveals a Nazi officer with a hard-set jaw and unseen eyes with a swastika banner depicted in harsh black, gray, and browns. Polacco's story is an important history while her illustrations make that history palatable and vivid to child and adult viewers. Experiencing The Butterfly means contemplating unsettling human history while savoring the security of friendship.
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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