Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Butterfly: Social Studies Mentor Text

When I was a kid, I was totally into Holocaust books. As terrible as it was, it's something I've always been interested in learning more about. Every time I went to the bookstore, it was usually to pick out another book about the Holocaust - or check one out from the library. It's such a hard subject, though, and harder to introduce to younger grades. I want them to know what it is and be sensitive to the culture without getting into the more mature parts of it.

One way to do this is by using a picture book. There are a number of them about the Holocaust that are written for a much younger audience. I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Texts to talk about one of them.

While we're on the subject of favorites, let me tell you about another one of my favorite things: Patricia Polacco. Don't you love her books? I have a million of them, and always need more. Today's mentor texts combines the Holocaust and Patricia Polacco in a beautiful book called The Butterfly. 

This book takes place in France, which I like, because it's a little harder to find a Holocaust book set in France. It is the story of a girl, Monique, who wakes up in the night to find a "ghost" in her bedroom. The "ghost" quickly disappears, but the turns up again on another night. Monique is surprised to discover that the little girl is not a ghost, but an actual child who is living in her house. Sevrine and her family have been hiding under the floor in Monique's house for a few months. They are Jews and are hiding until they can be smuggled out of France. Monique and Sevrine get together often in the evenings until as they look out the window one night, they see their neighbor looking them. They quickly make plans to get Sevrine and her family out of the house that night.

During the book, Monique sees a butterfly outside in her garden one day. As she is admiring it, a Nazi reaches and squishes it with his hand. Later in the book, after Sevrine and her parents have left the house, Monique sees three butterflies in her garden, followed by a hundred more, which she takes as a sign that Sevrine and her parents are safe. (the afterward in the book tells you later that in real life Sevrine lived, but her parents died). This could be used to talk with your students about symbolism (oooh, a language arts lesson :)).

The butterfly part of the book reminds me of another book that I own - I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Have you read it?

It's a collection of poems and drawings done by children who lived in the concentration camp of Terezin. This camp was known for having people who were artists, poets, musicians, etc. It is a book more for teens and adults than young children, but you can select a few poems and plenty of drawings to show to them to go along with The Butterfly.
Anyway, I just love Patricia Polacco's books. This one is a great story of friendship and bravery, while introducing a historical event. As in many books, this one is based on her own life. The little girl in the story, Monique, is Patricia's aunt. If you haven't read it already, go buy yourself a copy.


  1. I teach the Holocaust and I love Polacco so this was a great suggestion for me. :) Thanks!
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  2. You had me at Patricia Polacco. She's my favorite but I've never seen this book!!!!!!!!!!! I have almost all of them!

    This post gave me chills. I think I'm glad that I don't have to teach the Holocaust because I think my emotions would get the best of me. Both of these look like great books!

    Thanks for linking up!
    Collaboration Cuties

  3. Wow! Both books are unbelievable. I was just in a session on SS integration and how students seem to think that the Holocaust took place in just Germany.
    Fabulous Fifth Grade Fun