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.|

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Late one night, Monique awakens to find a ghost sitting at the foot of her bed, petting her cat, Pinouff. Believing herself to be incapable of surprise, since the occupation of her country and village by the Nazis, the young French girl is nevertheless much struck by the sad visage of her mysterious visitor. The discovery that Sevrine is no ghost, but a Jewish girl being hidden, together with her parents, in Monique's own basement, leads to the formation of a secret nighttime friendship between them. But when they are seen by a neighbor, and Sevrine and her family must be moved on to a new safe-house, both girls know that that they may never meet again...

Like so many of Patricia Polacco's books, The Butterfly is based upon the real-life experiences of the author's family, in this case, her Aunt Monique Boisseau Gaw, and Monique's mother, Marcel Sollilage, a member of the French Resistance during World War II. With so many fascinating branches on the family tree, I'm more interested than ever in the author's biographical background, and came away from this picture-book with a desire to know more, particularly about Marcel. The narrative hints that she hid a number of Jews from the Nazis. Who were the others, and was her work ever recognized? What about Sevrine? The afterword mentions that she survives (her parents do not), finding her way to England, and eventually to Israel. I would have loved to learn more about her journey, and about her lifelong friendship with Monique.

Leaving that aside, I thought that The Butterfly was a moving portrait of the horrors of war, as seen by a young girl, and found myself choking up - as I so frequently do, with Polacco's books - while reading it. Monique's innocence, in thinking that she is inured to shock, struck me as a very realistic (and poignant) example of the coping tactics a young child would use, when confronted with terrible realities. This is definitely a title I would recommend, to parents and teachers looking for books to introduce the difficult topics of WWII and the Holocaust to young readers.
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LibraryThing member mmuncy
The Butterfly is set during the Holocaust. It is about a young girl, Monique, who finds out that her mother is harboring Jews in their cellar. The little Jewish girl, Sevrine, starts coming into the girls room at night. Monique brings in things from the outside world so Sevrine can have a bit of things from the outside. She brings in a butterfly one night and the girls decide to let it go out the window; while at the window and a neighbor sees them. The girls have to tell their parents that they were caught and the family has to flee. In the end Monique and her mother are planting flowers when butterflies appear. Monique says that it is a sign from Sevrine that she and her family are safe.

I liked this book. I felt that it dealt with a tough issue in a very respectful way. It is a book I would fell okay with reading to my four year old.

This would be a great book to use with a study of the Holocaust.
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LibraryThing member heather_hill
The Butterfly is a historical account of Patricia Polacco's aunt and great aunt and their journey as part of the French Resistance to the Nazi invasion of France. It is a tale of selflessness and true friendship. It shows how one French woman risked her safety and the safety of her child to help stow away Jewish families in her basement to protect them from the Nazi regime.

This book is very touching. I liked how Patricia Polacco told the story from a child's perspective because we often don't see things the way a child sees them. The illustrations, like they always seem to be, are spectacular!

I would have the students write a letter to Mrs. Polacco to ask her questions they have about the book as an extension. I would also incorporate Number the Stars by Lois Lowry as a second book about the Holocaust from a child's perspective.
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LibraryThing member bb121789
The Butterfly

Patricia Polacco
The Butterfly is a historical fiction book about a little girl named Monique who lived in France during the time of the World War II. One night as the little girl laid sleeping in her bed she encounters a visitor. The visitor is a little girl who Monique thinks is a ghost. The little girl who is not really a ghost comes to Monique’s room every night. Monique then discovers that there is a family of Jews living in her basement hiding from the Nazis. Monique begins to secretly play with the little girl at night and brings her gifts from the outside world. One particular gift pleases the little girl because the gift reminds her of the freedom she used to have. Then the moment comes when the little girl and her family has to leave the basement in Monique’s house because the Nazis will be coming for them.
This historical fiction book really touched my heart. It is such a good book to read to children. The story gives children a glimpse of what it was like for children who lived during the World War I. This historical fiction book is a good story and I think children will most likely remember this historical event after reading the book.
After reading The Butterfly to my fourth grade students write in their journal their own book reviews over The Butterfly. I would ask them to describe the fear the children felt that lived during the World War I and to describe the Nazis who terrorized the people.
After writing in the journals I would assign the children to do a small research at home with their parents on World War I. Each student will be assigned to bring a piece of historical information that tells about what happened during World War II.
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LibraryThing member mhackman
This tale is amazingly touching about a non-Jewish French girl and her mother. You will be amazed at how they quietly rebel against the Nazi invasion in their peaceful village.
LibraryThing member knielsen83
I couldn't resist reading this after reading Pink and Say and cried out of joy this time. I just love Patricia Polacco's books.
LibraryThing member ampitcher
this book makes you appreciate all that you have in a touching story of courage
LibraryThing member skpuckett
The book is set during WWII France when Nazis occupied the area. The little girl must come to terms with the war. She discovers a secret friend; her mother is hiding Jews in the basement. She must be brave and keep her friend a secret.
LibraryThing member Katie20
This is a book about a young girl named Monique. She lives in France and she knows that the Nazi troops have invaded her village. She wakes up to a young ghost girl at her bed. She tells her mother when she wakes up, and her mother seems angry that she is telling her this story about a ghost. She then leaves to go to school to tell her friend, Denise all about it. They enter a candy shop, they see Nazi troops. The candy shop man had been taken because he was a Jewish man. The next night, Monique sees the ghost again. The ghosts name is Sevrine, and she said she use to live here in her house. The girl shows her a basement where she is living, and Monique does not understand why her mother lied to her about Jewish people living in their house. She then the next day sees a butterfly in the garden, and the Nazi shoulders hurt the butterfly. She knew from that day she had to protect her friend. She brought her gifts like the butterfly and flowers. Then they decide to let the butterfly go, but when they do their neighbor catches them. She goes to awake her mother. Sevrine's family had to leave, and so did she to a new place. They said their goodbyes, and she gave her the cat and Monique got a star of david. Monique and her mother got separated. They soon found eachother at home, and a bunch of butterflies fluttered to their garden. Monique knows it was a sign that Sevrine and her parents were just fine. This is a great book for children in third, fourth, and fifth grade.… (more)
LibraryThing member terios
This story is a little sad and serious, but a very sweet story, nonetheless. It is a story of a young girl, Monique and her mother who are helping to hide a Jewish family from the Nazis during the war. One night, the little Jewish girl is seen by Monique. Soon, the little girls become friends, and stay up at night so they can play and have tea parties. Then, a neighbor sees the little Jewish girl, and the girls know now that the Jewish family will have to go somewhere safer. They travel through the night until the little girls say goodbye. The butterflies let Monique know her friend is safe, wherever she is.… (more)
LibraryThing member vabrazzolotto
I loved this book! it is about a young girl, Monique, who lived in France during Hitler's Nazi Germany. One night she awakes to a young girl in her room, but the girl scurries off. The girl returns another night and they begin to talk. they become good friends. She discovers that her mother is hiding Jews in their basement to keep them safe. One night they are playing in monique's bedroom when her neighbor spots the 2. They have to tell Monique's mother because now since someone knows that she is there they are in danger. They come up with a plan for Monique's mother to take her and her friend to another area to meet some other people for her and her family to stay with. Monique gave her her cat. Her parents are supposed to meet up with them later. Finally one day long after they had left her friend Monique gets a letter saying that she is ok, but her parent s did not make it.… (more)
LibraryThing member rfinch
This is a powerful book that reveals the relationships that were formed during a scary time for children in a confusing war. Patricia Polacco writes a beautiful story on friendship that is based on a true story from her aunt. I great book to see the personal effect of war.
LibraryThing member GillianEvans
This was an amazing book. I think children of all elementary ages would enjoy it. It is a children's book, but it talks about WWII and deals with real life history. The butterfly gets smashed in the story, it is symbolism for violence in the war. The book also cintains portions of friendship from the girls, and talks about how courageous people had to be during those hard times. This would be a wonderful book to read to the older elementary kids if you were to do a segment on war. If you are reading to younger kids you could focus on the characteristic of courgae and the loyalty of friendships.… (more)
LibraryThing member rachel0217
Great book to introduce children to the Holocaust. The pictures are very realistic. The story is about two families who come together to hide one of the families from the German soldiers.
LibraryThing member cejerry97
This is a story about a girl named Monique who lives in France during the Nazi occupation. Monique's mother helped the Jews by hiding them underground. Monique makes friends with the Jewish girl named Sevrine who is staying at her house, but eventually Sevrine is noticed by a neighbor and is forced to move away with her parents. Monique gives Sevrine a butterfly as they part, and at the end of the story as Monique is gardending with her mother, she sees hundreds of butterflies starting to swarm around her. This tells Monique that Sevrine and her parents were safe!
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Picture book, advanced
Illustrations: painted
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LibraryThing member smendel18
The Butterfly is a beautiful story about a two young girls, one of which is running away from the Nazi's. They form a friendship that is forbidden, and are forced to help each other as the little girl and her family escape to a safe place. This is a deep story that would not be understood by really young grades. Upper grades would certainly be able to use this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member GI142984
The book takes place when Jews were in hiding from the Nazis during the War. A young girl named Monique and her mother live in a small house, one night while sleeping the Monique sees a ghost at the end of her bed. She tries to speak to the ghost but the ghost runs away, a few nights later it returns but it’s not a ghost it’s a real Jew girl names Sevrine. Sevrine explains that her mother,father and she live in the basement and that they hiding from the Nazis. Her mother has been hiding them without Monique knowing, and so they decided to keep their friendship and play dates at night from their parents. One night Monique brings a butterfly from the outside and Sevrine sets if free from the window seal and they realize the neighbor was watching. They have no choice but to tell their parents, and that night they had to flee incase the neighbor tells the Nazis. They say their good byes and at the end Monique wonders if they are still alive. Thousands of butterflies show up in the garden the next day and Monique knows that the message was from Sevrine telling her they are alive!

This was a very good book and is a great book to bring up the topic on race. The illustrations were amazing and the story was great, but I expect nothing less from Patrica Polacco. I love the fact that it is really based on a true story and the character’s names are based on true people.

This would be a great story for students to read when discussing racial topics and even talking about the Nazi/Jew War. I would have the students find another book of Patrica Polacco and have them write similarities in the story themes and characters.
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LibraryThing member cegordon
This is the story of a girl who realizes there is someone in her house. However, the family is hiding from the Nazis and German soldiers. It is the story of these girls becoming friends and respecting each other. The girl realizes the importance of having friends and accepting them. It talks about the difficulties people went through in WWII.… (more)
LibraryThing member cemccamy
This is a story about the courage and friendship of two young girls during WWII. Monique discovers that her mother is hiding a Jewish family underneath her house. They have a daughter around her age, and they become great friends. It is a great book to read to children to inform them about things that happend during the Holocaust without really upsetting them with gory or violent details.… (more)
LibraryThing member sriches
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
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LibraryThing member srrush
This book is the story of friendship between one girl and a little Jewish girl who is being oppressed. It really shows the hardships of those who were Jews and those were helping them. It is a very serious, emotional book and gives great insight into the life of the prejudice against the Jews during the early 18th century.
LibraryThing member ljemanuel
this is a great book for children to listen to. It is a longer book and may have some difficult words for early readers to read.
LibraryThing member mcdarden
Teachers can incorporate this book as just a simple read aloud. Teachers could also incorporate this book when teaching the life cycle of a butterfly as well.
LibraryThing member jbbarclay
Monique and her mother have Jews hiding in their basement, and Monique meets a girl and they become secret best friends. She has to leave Moniques house but she sends a letter to her and tells her she is still alive although Monique already has a clue to it when a butterfly passes her outside one day reminding her of the young girl.… (more)
LibraryThing member rebecca401
Monique's mother has been hiding Jewish refugees in the cellar, but her daughter only discovers the secret when she meets a girl named Sevrine. They spend many pleasant nights playing with Monique's cat and having tea parties. It is dangerous, however, and soon Sevrine has to escape. Will she make it to safety? Will Monique and her mother be spared? This true story is heart-wrenching and poignant at the same time… (more)


Original language


Physical description

48 p.; 8.5 inches


0142413062 / 9780142413067


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