Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Summary: The Butterfly is about a girl named Monique who lives in Nazi occupied France. One night she wakes up and thinks she sees a ghost. Monique later discovers that the ghost is actually a girl named Sevrine, who is hiding with her family (they are Jewish) in Monique's house. When one of Monique's neighbors sees the two of them together, Monique's mother has to help Sevrine and her family escape to avoid the Nazis.
My thoughts: I was drawn to this book because I have read many other books by Patricia Polacco. The story and illustrations are beautiful and it is a story that has been passed down to her by her aunt, Monique. This book, I thought, brought a very touching story about a difficult subject to life in an accessible way. The Butterfly has a lot of possibilities for further discussion in it as well. I also really liked that in this story it is Monique's mother who is the strong character working for the resistance.
In the classroom: This book could work well with a unit about the Holocaust and World War II. I also think that it could be tied in with literacy through a character study of Monique. This book could also be used to talk about discrimination (antisemitism).
Domains of SJE: Some of the domains are just briefly touched upon in the book, but I think that it could be a jumping off point to discuss some of these topics further.
Self-love and acceptance - Sevrine briefly mentions some traditions that her family carried out before the Nazis forced them into hiding. This could be expanded upon to learn more about Jewish customs and traditions.
Respect for others - Monique's questioning why the Nazis are persecuting Jewish people as a whole could lead to talking about how she respected their differences and accepted Sevrine as a close friend even though many people at that time wouldn't have.
Exploring issues of Social Justice - Exploring antisemitism and how Jewish people were oppressed and persecuted during this time.
Social Movements and Social Change - Monique's mother didn't agree with what was happening in France and took her own steps to make a change, working with the French resistance.
Taking Social Action - Although the book doesn't necessarily encourage students to take it upon themselves to change the world, I think that after learning about the oppression and persecution that took place, many students might be interested in finding out if this is still happening and how they could change it.
Patricia Polacco's website
The Butterfly at Barnes and Noble
The Butterfly at Amazon
Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.