Odette’s Secrets is a rare find. Award-winning author, Maryann Macdonald, captures the spirit of a young French girl who escapes the brutality of being deported to a concentration camp by living as a Christian in rural France. Maryann’s use of simple verse enriches the tone of Odette’s thoughts and words in this fast paced book. Reluctant readers will not be waiting for the chapter to end since each chapter is usually a page or two.
While many historical fiction books have been written about the horrors of the Holocaust, few have addressed the fact that a greater number of French Jewish children survived the war compared to the rest of Europe Jewry. Maryann capitalizes on this little known statistic by creating a story based on Odette Meyer’s autobiography, Doors to Madame Marie.
After spending an extensive amount of time researching the facts and visiting the places where Odette lived, Maryann wrote a heart wrenching story that enables readers to see a Jewish child’s perspective of anti-Semitism and what it was like to live as a hidden child.
Poignant passages give insight into Odette’s fears.
Many people in the Vendée are afraid of Jews.
They think Jews bring trouble
If they knew who we really were,
they might tell the enemy solders about us.
That’s why we have to pretend to be Christians. (Page 102)
Simultaneously, readers are able to see how hidden children coped with their new lives.
I know the reason I feel safe in the country.
It’s because here,
I am not a Jew.
In Paris, I am a Jew. (Page 103)
In addition to focusing on the events leading up to the Holocaust and the years of being hidden, the story also highlights what it was like to return home.
Our neighborhood looks like a black-and-white photograph.
Color hasn’t come back yet to Paris. (Page 176)
Odettes’ story showcases the after effects of living a pretend life.
Sometimes, in the middle of my days in Paris, I feel confused.
I still wonder who I really am.
and where I really belong!
In the city?
In the country?
Or at my Jewish youth group? (Page 201)
Unlike many childhood survivors who spent decades coming to terms with their horrific childhood experiences, Odette is able to put the past behind her.
Her internal strength is revealed near the end of the book when she states:
I don’t need to hide anymore,
and I don’t want to keep any more secrets.
Secrets stand in the way.
They stop me from knowing who I am.
I am a Jew.
I’m sure of it.
And I will always be one. (Page 204)
Usually children/YA authors who delve into the genre of Holocaust literature are Jewish. Maryann Macdonald is an exception to this rule. Not only did she venture into an area that is outside her comfort zone, she successfully captured a Jewish perspective. This is remarkable because many literacy experts dismiss literature that is written by “outsiders.” See Agendas and Multicultural Literature. I tip my hat in appreciation to Maryann’s dedication to cultural and historical accuracy.
If you’re looking for an informative and memorable story about Jewish survival in France during the Holocaust, consider reading the award-winning book, Odette’s Secrets.
- Kirkus- Best Children’s books of 2013
- The Tablet- Best Children’s books of 2013
- Sydney Taylor Notable book 2014
- Nominated for both the Texas Bluebonnet and a Cybils awards
Earlier this week, I interviewed Maryann Macdonald. Press here to read the interview.
In exchange for an honest interview and review, I was sent a copy of Odette’s Secrets.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, April 19, 2015 will be eligible for a book giveaway. Leanne will send the randomly selected North American winner an autographed copy of Odette’s Secrets.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.