Title- The Butterfly
Author & Illustrator- Patricia Polacco
SJE- Element 3: Issues of Social Injustice
Where to buy The Butterfly
Patricia Polacco's Website
Summary- The Butterfly is based on the true story of Patricia Polacco's aunt Monique and her mother Marcelle Solliliage. The story takes place in France during World War II and the Nazi occupation. Monique is aware of the war happening around her but she is not aware of her mother's role in France's resistance effort, until one night she sees a little girl at the foot of her bed. The little girl, Sevrine, and her family have been living in Monique's family's basement. Monique and Sevrine begin having nightly play dates and become good friends until one night when a neighbor sees the two girls playing in the window. The girls tell Marcelle what happened and Sevrine and her family are forced to flee the basement to try to escape to Switzerland.
Element 3: Issues of Social Justice-
This story represents the third element of SJE because it demonstrates religious intolerance and how it affected European Jews during World War II. The Butterfly shows a child's perspective on the war and makes it as relatable as possible. Not only does the story focus on the experience of a Jewish child during WWII it also shows how dangerous it was for the brave people who tried to help their Jewish neighbors and friends. This story is a good way to introduce the Holocaust to younger students who are not ready to be exposed to the more gruesome details of this topic. In addition, you could also use this story to tie together Element 3 and Element 4 because it touches upon social movements as well.
This book could be used in an activity where students are asked to compare and contrast the children (Monique and Sevrine) and their experiences. This activity would demonstrate the impact the war had on the two different groups (Jews and non-Jews). Students would be able to see how Jews lost all of their freedom while their non-Jewish neighbors were still able to do daily activities such as go to school. However, by comparing and contrasting the students would also notice that it was not just Jewish people who were afraid during the war, Monique and her friends were also frightened of the "tall boots" even if they did not have to fear being taken by them.