The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco tells the true story of the author’s aunt who lived in France during the Nazi occupation in World War II. In a very touching and light-handed manner, Polacco introduces the harshness of the Jewish Holocaust. Monique was a young girl during this period and finds that her mother has been hiding French Jews in their basement. She and a little girl her age discover one another and share their thoughts and dreams. When the family is on the verge of discovery, Monique’s mother assists in the family’s attempt to escape. The papillon, or butterfly, is a symbol of the freedom that should be standard for each person in the world as well as the violence that crushes that freedom. Although this story is not all happy endings, the subject of the Holocaust is introduced in manner that would be acceptable for younger children.
Polacco’s website provides a number of interactive activities and video clips of the real life people in this beautiful story. Another interesting idea to go along with this book would be The Butterfly Project of the Holocaust Museum of Houston. They are hoping to collect 1.5 million hand made butterflies by 2012 to represent the “innocent children who perished in the Holocaust”. Although it will be just two little butterflies, I am sending mine off to the museum and hope that you will as well. If you are an educator, please consider having your students do the same.
TITLE: The Butterfly
AUTHOR: Patricia Polacco
TYPE: non-fiction, historical
RECOMMEND: An excellent children's book for Holocaust education