The Butterfly

by Patricia Polacco

Paperback, 2009





Puffin Books (2009), Edition: Reprint, 48 pages


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

Media reviews

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) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-Polacco relates the tale of her Aunt Monique to show, in picture-book terms, the suffering of the Jews during Nazi occupation and the courage of those who took part in the French Resistance. The setting is a small village; unbeknownst to the child, Monique's mother is hiding Jews in their basement. It is at night, when Sevrine emerges from the depths to peer out the window, that Monique awakens and the secret friendship begins. Polacco's use of color has never been more effective. The blackness, which starts on the endpapers, surrounds the girls' conversations, Sevrine's basement existence, the ditch hiding the two families as they flee to the next refuge, and the train car on Monique's return trip (she has become separated from her mother). In contrast are the light-filled scenes of Monique and her mother at breakfast, their sweet reunion at home, and, on the last page, mother and child surrounded by butterflies. Earlier, Monique had watched a soldier crush a papillon; later, she had taken a fluttering "kiss of an angel" inside for her friend. The bold pattern and heightened color of the insect provides a counterpoint to the equally dynamic black-on-red swastikas. Convincing in its portrayal of both the disturbing and humanitarian forces of the time, the title is not as dark or graphic as Robert Innocenti's Rose Blanche (Harcourt, 1996). An author's note relates the rest of the story: Sevrine survived and the friendship still flourishes. A perfect blend of art and story.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|


Original language


Physical description

48 p.; 8.5 inches


0142413062 / 9780142413067


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