Reviews for Odette's Secrets

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
Set in France during WWII, Odette's Secrets is a novelization, in verse, of the life of Odette Meyers, whose autobiography, Doors to Madame Marie (1997) was an inspiration for this book. When life in Paris becomes too dangerous for Jews, including Odette, the young girl is sent to the countryside, where she must disguise herself as a French peasant and Christian, keeping her true identity a closely guarded secret. After many months, Odette's mother, who has worked with the French Resistance, joins her and, like Odette, must lose her own Jewish identity. Two and one-half years later, Paris is liberated, and Odette and her mother return to the city, but can Odette resume her true identity as a Jew or has her assumed Christianity become too much a part of her being? Though sometimes lacking in drama, this quiet story will nevertheless offer readers new insights into considerations of being a Jew during WWII and the complex ways that we define our identity. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
In this verse novel based on a true story, a little French Jewish girl recounts her childhood during World War II. When she is sent to a country village, posing as a Christian, the uncertainty of her life filled with secrets is beautifully realized, allowing Odette's terror, confusion, gradual acceptance, and new familiarity with God to come through in a very personal way.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
In this free-verse novel closely based on a true story (with photographs at the end), a little French girl recounts her childhood during World War II. Born to Polish atheist Jews, Odette lives a pleasant life with her parents in Paris, while Madame Marie, their upstairs neighbor, takes on a special role as her godmother. Paris becomes increasingly dangerous after her father enlists in the army and her mother joins the Resistance, and after a frightening visit from soldiers where Madame Marie hides Odette and her mother in a closet and says all the right, terrible things about Jews in order to protect them, Odette is sent to a country village, posing as a Christian. The uncertainty of her life filled with secrets is beautifully realized, along with the hard choices she must make. "Did God punish me because I told a lie, / said that I was not Jewish? / But my mother told me to lie. / ‘It's a matter of life or death,' she said. / And the priest tells us to obey our parents." The free-verse narration opts for directness over lyricism, allowing Odette's terror, confusion, and gradual acceptance of her new life and new familiarity with God to come through in a very personal way. Macdonald delicately balances the reader's happiness that the heroine survives with an understanding of her deep, permanent sorrow for her people, ones she knew and ones she didn't. susan dove lempke

Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #1
Introspective and accessible, this fictionalized history of a Jewish child surviving the Nazi occupation of France uses an elegant simplicity of language. Odette, quite young, lives comfortably in a Paris apartment "on a cobblestone square / with a splashing fountain." Watching a newsreel, she sees "soldiers march, / their legs and arms straight as sticks. / A funny-looking man with a mustache / shouts a speech." The next day, she sees a Jewish-owned store with smashed windows. Mama and Papa are secular, but "[w]e are Polish Jews because / Mama's and Papa's parents and grandparents / in faraway Poland / are all Jews." Papa joins the French army and is taken prisoner; yellow stars are assigned; Mama sends Odette out of Paris. For 2 1/2 years, Odette practices Catholicism in one village and then another, growing attached to religious ritual and the countryside. Macdonald's free verse uses unadorned images: A blanket from Odette's devoted (Christian) godmother; schoolchildren pounding out "La Marseillaise" on desks with their fists to drown out rowdy German soldiers; those same children rolling Odette in a thorn bush when they suspect her secret. Odette's first-person voice matures subtly as she grows in age and in comprehension of the war's horrors. Based on the real Odette Meyers (ne Melspajz), this thoughtful, affecting piece makes an ideal Holocaust introduction for readers unready for death-camp scenes. (timeline, historical photographs, author's note) (Historical verse fiction. 9-15) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #3

Odette's life in Paris is happy until Jewish shopkeepers' stores start being vandalized and rumors of war become fact. With her father in the army, Odette, her mother, and her beloved godmother are left to manage under the growing restrictions against Jews. Eventually, Odette is sent to the countryside--safer, but not devoid of anti-Semitism--where she spends the rest of the war as a hidden child. When the war ends, Odette, no longer sure how Jewish she feels, is reluctant to return to Paris, memorably described, like the rest of postwar France, as a "gigantic Lost and Found" for Jews seeking missing family members. As Odette starts to understand the extent of the losses her community has suffered, she rediscovers her identity as a Jew. Macdonald used the real Odette's auto- biography as the basis for this book, and her free-verse narrative is charming and effective. Although Odette's age is never given, her youthful perspective and the overall nonspecificity about the war, make the book best suited to readers on the younger end of the target audience. Ages 10-14. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 5-8--This story opens as World War II is beginning and the persecution of Jews in France is escalating. After Paris falls to the Nazis, Odette is rushed to the countryside, where she hides in plain sight by living with a family and pretending to be Christian. There she struggles with her identity. The strength of the novel lies in MacDonald's meticulous research, which is explained in an author's note, of the real Odette Meyers, whose photos are included. The author weaves in facts about Odette's life and the events taking place at the time with imagined scenarios in which Odette may have found herself. However, the author's free-verse prose style makes readers acutely aware that an adult is trying to write from a child's perspective, and it sounds not so much poetic as fragmentary and unorganized. This book is a good introduction for children interested in how the war and the Holocaust affected the everyday lives of kids their age, but in a field with so many classics and reinterpretations of similar stories, such as Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Collins, 1971), Lois Lowry's Number the Stars (Houghton, 1989), Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), and Sandi Toksvig's Hitler's Canary (Roaring Brook, 2007), it's an additional purchase.--Anne Barreca, New York Public Library

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VOYA Reviews 2012 December
Living in Paris with her Jewish parents, Odette's remarkable survival of Nazi-occupied France comes to life through poetry. After her father joins the French Army in 1939, he is quickly taken prisoner by the German soldiers. Odette and her mother live in constant fear of being taken prisoners themselves. When Paris becomes too dangerous, Odette's mother sends her to the country where she can hide in plain sight as a Christian child living in a Christian village with a Christian family. Eight year old Odette quickly adapts to this new way of life by learning to pray, learning the sign of the cross, and attending church. She begins to feel safe once again, but constantly worries that she will forget who she really is. Based on a true story, this powerful first-person narration is done completely in verse. Each poem offers snapshots of the events, relationships, struggles, and dreams that provide the foundation of Odette's life. This is an engaging, well-written book providing a unique glimpse into history while exploring the difficulties Jewish children faced when being forced to abandon their religion and identity in order to assimilate into a Christian way of life. While the book spans five or six years, the fast pace makes it seem like a much shorter period of time. The timeline in the back of the book provides readers with exact dates of Odette's life and how they coincided with the rise of Nazi Germany. Pictures of Odette and the author's note add rich layers to the story. This is an excellent choice for young readers looking for historical fiction, fiction in verse, Holocaust fiction, or an engaging story of survival and courage.--Sarah Cofer 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.