Goodness, me. This is most definitely the year of middle grade literature for me. I am discovering, one after another, wonderful reads and fantastical stories.
Obviously, today is no exception. And today’s book is actually a special type of story.
When I was a kid, I loved Anne Frank’s story–no, I wasn’t morbid and yes, I understood it was a terrible, horrible time in history. I loved Anne’s story because it was one of strength, perseverance, bravery, and heart. Today’s book, and heroine, are just like Anne. Strong. Brave. And someone I want my future daughter to know.
I was graciously provided a copy via NetGalley from the publisher, Bloomsbury USA Children’s. I was not compensated in any way for my review (cross my heart) nor did I promise a good rating. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine.
Author:Maryann Macdonald| Website
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
As a young Jewish girl, Odette realizes her life isn’t safe in Paris ever since the Nazi’s took over. But once her father is sent to a work camp, and the round ups start, Odette’s mother sends her to the countryside in hopes of saving her life.
It is there that Odette must keep secrets and pretend to be someone she is not–a Catholic peasant girl . However, once the war is over, desperate to return to her Paris life and burning up with secrets, Odette must come to realize who she really is–and if she can ever return to her Jewish roots.
5 reasons why this book is marvelous!
- From the beginning, Odette is a beautiful heroine. Not simply because she is well-written in the story and we understand the depth of her emotions from her point of view–but because Odette Meyer was a REAL heroine. Macdonald’s novel is based on the real life story of Odette, and her journey and secrets to safety are inspiring.
- Odette as a character is just as wonderful. I did feel like it took me a little while to warm up to her, simply because at the beginning of the story I feel she has a lot of figuring out to do. Her emotions are all over the place–but not in a bad way. The time frame of the story (WWII) is one of those moments in history that I feel is hard for anyone to go back too, and so to read and understand it from a nine-year old Jewish girl’s perspective is both heart-wrenching and wonderful. We learn about her confusion, her fear, her worry about secret keeping, and her pride in her Jewish roots. We see all sorts of angles from her ‘I’ perspective, and I absolutely loved how it gave the story such an emotional depth.
- As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of historical fiction–but I think that is simply because I haven’t found the right stories to fall in love with. But Odette’s Secrets is definitely a historical novel I have fallen in love with. Her voice is beautiful, and her story is such a story of triumph and adversity, and it is a story told from a different point of view. For most of the story, Odette is safe, but only because she hides who she really is. I feel this hurdle in her life will speak to so many readers because ultimately, Odette is pulled in opposite directions throughout the story, but she never fails to understand who she really is.
- When I do read historical fiction, it is often from the WWII era. With that said, I feel like the WWII era is a really hard genre to write for because there is already a large canon of literature, so when new stories are published, especially based on real-life events, I sometimes feel their reception is sheltered or hindered. But this novel most definitely finds it’s place. Even though it is a story inspired by real life events, and part of a common genre, Macdonald weaves a fictional story that is so different than any other I have read because of it’s structure. Odette tells her story in free verse poetry, and I love the shift from standard narrative prose. Poetry is such an emotional form of writing, and we see more of Odette through her verse and her raw emotion and truth giving.Because of that, I don’t think Odette’s story could have been told in any other way.
- All-in-all, Odette’s Secrets is a moving story. Readers will walk away understanding the historical period not only for the historical elements, but for the human emotions that were separated, torn, pushed, and pulled. Unlike other Holocaust-based novels, Odette’s Secrets is not gritty or graphic. I feel it is very tame for middle grade readers, yet real enough that this could be used in the classrooms. It is definitely a novel that will be a part of my classroom whether or not I am required to teach the Holocaust. I want to expose my students, and my future children to this story because Odette’s story, as Macdonald as said, is a story that needs to be told. And it is a story of adversity, and perseverance, and faith that I want to keep sharing.
Book Talk: Have you heard about Odette’s Secret’s yet? Because you definitely need too! Would this be a book you read to/have your children read to learn about history, or would you use it in the classroom?