Cover image for The butterfly
The butterfly
Polacco, Patricia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Philomel Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
During the Nazi occupation of France, Monique's mother hides a Jewish family in her basement and tries to help them escape to freedom.
Reading Level:
430 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.8 0.5 43946.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.1 3 Quiz: 22028 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
Clarence Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Clearfield Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Collins Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
East Aurora Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Eggertsville-Snyder Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Grand Island Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Hamburg Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Kenmore Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Lackawanna Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Orchard Park Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Williamsville Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Audubon Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Audubon Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Frank E. Merriweather Library PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

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Since the Tall Boots--the Nazis--have marched into Monique's small French village, terrorizing it, nothing surprises her. Until the night Monique encounters "the little ghost" sitting at the end of her bed. When she turns out to be--not a ghost at all--but a young girl named Sevrine, who has been hiding from the Nazis in Monique's own basement, how could Monique not be surprised! Playing upstairs after dark, the two become friends until, in a terrifying moment, they are discovered, sending both of their families into a nighttime flight. In the tradition of Pink and Say , Patricia Polacco once again dips into her own family's history to reveal her Aunt Monique's true story of friendship from the French Resistance.

Author Notes

Patricia Polacco was born in Lansing, Michigan on July 11, 1944. She attended Oakland Tech High School in Oakland, California before heading off to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, then Laney Community College in Oakland. She then set off for Monash University, Mulgrave, Australia and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia where she received a Ph.D in Art History, Emphasis on Iconography.

After college, she restored ancient pieces of art for museums. She didn't start writing children's books until she was 41 years old. She began writing down the stories that were in her head, and was then encouraged to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. There she learned how to put together a dummy and get a story into the form of a children's picture book. Her mother paid for a trip to New York, where the two visited 16 publishers in one week. She submitted everything she had to more than one house. By the time she returned home the following week, she had sold just about everything.

Polacco has won the 1988 Sydney Taylor Book Award for The Keeping Quilt, and the 1989 International Reading Association Award for Rechenka's Eggs. She was inducted into the Author's Hall of Fame by the Santa Clara Reading Council in 1990, and received the Commonwealth Club of California's Recognition of Excellence that same year for Babushka's Doll, and again in 1992 for Chicken Sunday. She also won the Golden Kite Award for Illustration from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for Chicken Sunday in 1992, as well as the Boston Area Educators for Social Responsibility Children's Literature and Social Responsibility Award. In 1993, she won the Jane Adams Peace Assoc. and Women's Intl. League for Peace and Freedom Honor award for Mrs. Katz and Tush for its effective contribution to peace and social justice. She has won Parent's Choice Honors for Some Birthday in 1991, the video Dream Keeper in 1997 and Thank You Mr. Falker in 1998. In 1996, she won the Jo Osborne Award for Humor in Children's Literature. Her titles The Art of Miss. Chew and The Blessing Cup made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-9. In a quiet author's note, Polacco tells the true story on which this picture book is based. Her aunt Monique was a child in France during the Nazi occupation. Monique didn't know that her mother was active in the French Resistance and was hiding a Jewish family in the cellar of her house. Told from the child's viewpoint, the facts are spellbinding: Monique's discovery of the hidden refugee child, Sevrine, the end of the girls' strong friendship when the Jewish family is forced to flee and face the Nazi patrols. Unfortunately, the storytelling and pictures are melodramatic and sentimental. The sustained metaphor of the title refers to a fragile butterfly that Monique brings to Sevrine in hiding. It flutters "like the kiss of an angel," but is crushed in the fist of an ominous Nazi. In the end Monique sees a group of butterflies flying free and takes that as a sign that her friend is safe. What will hold grade-school kids is the truth of the friendship story and the tension of hiding to survive. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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' missionÄuntil 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 letterÄwith 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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