Patricia Polacco wrote The Butterfly about an event from her aunt Monique Boisseau Gaw’s childhood. Monique lived in Nazi occupied France and befriends a “ghost girl”. The friend is actually not a ghost, but a Jewish girl, Sevrine, who is hiding with her family in Monique’s cellar. The girls secretly spend time together and Monique brings things from the outside world in for Servine to see. One night she brings a papillion, a butterfly, in and the girls release it. Servine longs to be as free as the butterfly.
This is a heartwarming tale of friendship, courage and selfless giving. It does not gloss over the evil of dark parts of World history, but presents them truthfully in a way that would be appropriate for children (perhaps grade three and above). Ms. Polacco says on her website that “children understand more than we give them credit for”.
An author’s note is included in the book that gives historical background of her family being part of the French underground and resistance and information on what happened to Monique and Servine’s friendship.
If you haven’t visited Patricia Polacco’s website, you should. She has written and illustrated many wonderful tales from her life. The site (click here) also has e-postcards of Polacco’s art that you can send.