Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Butterfly

"The Butterfly"

Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Age Range: 4 to 8


The story takes place in France and begins with Monique peering out her window looking at her village being occupied by Nazi troops. During the night, she wakes up to find this little ghost at the end of her bed. When Moniques attempts to talk to this little ghost, the little ghost just runs away. The next morning Monique can’t wait to tell her mom what she witnessed. However, her mom who rarely gets upset seems almost angry at this remark and assures Monique that it was only a dream. When Monique arrives at school, she tells her best friend Denise about the ghost. On the way home that day, they stop off the store of Monsier Mark’s candy shop. Even though most of the jars that used to be filled with candy are now empty due to the war, Monsieur Marks hands them candy he saved for them. As they walk outside the store, the two girls hear the clicking boots of the soldiers and witness Monsier Mark get taken by the Nazi soldiers. The girls run to Monique’s house and begin to sob as they ask why the soldiers are taking such a good man as Monsier Mark. Although they knew these things happened before, the girls were distraught that it happened to Monsier Mark. Her mother tells them that the Nazis hate the Jews, even though it’s pointless and cruel. Many nights pass until Monique seees the little ghost again by her bed. This time they talk and Monique finds out that Sevrine and her family have been hiding in her basement. One day, Monique is out in the garden when she spots a beautiful butterfly. While she’s admiring the beautiful garden and butterfly, some soldiers come over and crush the butterfly right in front of her. Scared, Monique runs to her mom and asks if this is what they are planning to do to Monsier Marks. This is when Monique begins to understand the sadness and fear in Sevrine’s eyes. From that day on, Sevrine comes out of hiding every night to play with Monique. Monique collects things from the outside world for Sevrine to feel and touch. One night, as they are setting free a butterfly out the window, a neighbor spots them. They both run to Monique’s mom and let her know what has happened. That same night Sevrine and her family depart so they are not discovered hiding. Weeks pass and Monique hopes that Sevrine and her family are safe. Finally one day she gets a sign from Monique. A bunch of monarch butterflies land in her garden and Monique just knows that Sevrine sent them and that the are safe now.


Drawing from her own's family history, Patricia Polacco delivers a personal and touching story. Although the book is listed for children between 4 - 8 years of age, this is a book that older children and adults will appreciate. The story is filled with lots of themes which include the beauty of friendship, being different, being compassionate, the use of symbolism, discrimination, and courageness. The illustrations of the book are beautiful and adequately depict the mood of each event as the story unfolds. This book is rich in so many themes that it's an excellent book to introduce many different themes in our society but also a way to introduce children to WWII and the French occupation.