Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Odette's Secrets
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Odette's Secrets

4.4 7
by Maryann Macdonald

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Odette is a young Jewish girl living in Paris during a dangerous time. The Nazis have invaded the city, and every day brings new threats. After Odette's father enlists in the French army and her mother joins the Resistance, Odette is sent to the countryside until it is safe to return.

On the surface, she leads the life of a regular girl—going to school,


Odette is a young Jewish girl living in Paris during a dangerous time. The Nazis have invaded the city, and every day brings new threats. After Odette's father enlists in the French army and her mother joins the Resistance, Odette is sent to the countryside until it is safe to return.

On the surface, she leads the life of a regular girl—going to school, doing chores, and even attending Catholic Mass with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets about the life she left behind and her true identity.

Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyers—and written in moving free-verse poetry—this is a story of courage, of determination to survive, and of a young girl forced to hide in plain sight.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Odette’s life in Paris is happy until Jewish shopkeepers’ stores start being vandalized and rumors of war become fact. With her father in the army, Odette, her mother, and her beloved godmother are left to manage under the growing restrictions against Jews. Eventually, Odette is sent to the countryside—safer, but not devoid of anti-Semitism—where she spends the rest of the war as a hidden child. When the war ends, Odette, no longer sure how Jewish she feels, is reluctant to return to Paris, memorably described, like the rest of postwar France, as a “gigantic Lost and Found” for Jews seeking missing family members. As Odette starts to understand the extent of the losses her community has suffered, she rediscovers her identity as a Jew. Macdonald used the real Odette’s auto- biography as the basis for this book, and her free-verse narrative is charming and effective. Although Odette’s age is never given, her youthful perspective and the overall nonspecificity about the war, make the book best suited to readers on the younger end of the target audience. Ages 10–14. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (Mar.)
VOYA - Sarah Cofer
Living in Paris with her Jewish parents, Odette’s remarkable survival of Nazi-occupied France comes to life through poetry. After her father joins the French Army in 1939, he is quickly taken prisoner by the German soldiers. Odette and her mother live in constant fear of being taken prisoners themselves. When Paris becomes too dangerous, Odette’s mother sends her to the country where she can hide in plain sight as a Christian child living in a Christian village with a Christian family. Eight year old Odette quickly adapts to this new way of life by learning to pray, learning the sign of the cross, and attending church. She begins to feel safe once again, but constantly worries that she will forget who she really is. Based on a true story, this powerful first-person narration is done completely in verse. Each poem offers snapshots of the events, relationships, struggles, and dreams that provide the foundation of Odette’s life. This is an engaging, well-written book providing a unique glimpse into history while exploring the difficulties Jewish children faced when being forced to abandon their religion and identity in order to assimilate into a Christian way of life. While the book spans five or six years, the fast pace makes it seem like a much shorter period of time. The timeline in the back of the book provides readers with exact dates of Odette’s life and how they coincided with the rise of Nazi Germany. Pictures of Odette and the author's note add rich layers to the story. This is an excellent choice for young readers looking for historical fiction, fiction in verse, Holocaust fiction, or an engaging story of survival and courage. Ages 11 to 15.
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
Based on the autobiography of the real Odette Melspajz Meyers, this free-verse recreation of a Jewish girl’s childhood in Paris and the Vendée during World War II tells the story of one child’s survival in Occupied France. Odette lives quite happily with her mother and father in a little Paris apartment. Madame Marie and Monsieur Henri, an older Catholic couple, live below and are like extended family. When the war begins, Odette’s father joins the army to fight against Hitler and is soon taken prisoner by the Germans. As conditions worsen, Odette and her mother must wear the yellow star marking them as Jews, and Odette can no longer go to parks or libraries or restaurants. Though one of the teachers protects her, children who used to be her friends attack her at school. Finally, her mother, who has become a freedom fighter, sends her to the country to live with a Catholic family and pretend to be a Catholic child. The family is kind to Odette and three other Jewish girls they have taken in, but when her mother escapes from Paris she moves with her to an even smaller village. When the war ends, they return to Paris and Odette’s father makes his way home. Her story is one of adaptation, making herself into a new person and keeping the secrets that protect her from being sent to a concentration camp. Photographs of Odette, her friends, her parents, Madame Marie, and Monsieur Henri are scattered through the text. The quiet but powerful verse is written in first person and offers a very personal sense of what Odette observed and endured through those war years. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito; Ages 10 to 14.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This story opens as World War II is beginning and the persecution of Jews in France is escalating. After Paris falls to the Nazis, Odette is rushed to the countryside, where she hides in plain sight by living with a family and pretending to be Christian. There she struggles with her identity. The strength of the novel lies in MacDonald's meticulous research, which is explained in an author's note, of the real Odette Meyers, whose photos are included. The author weaves in facts about Odette's life and the events taking place at the time with imagined scenarios in which Odette may have found herself. However, the author's free-verse prose style makes readers acutely aware that an adult is trying to write from a child's perspective, and it sounds not so much poetic as fragmentary and unorganized. This book is a good introduction for children interested in how the war and the Holocaust affected the everyday lives of kids their age, but in a field with so many classics and reinterpretations of similar stories, such as Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Collins, 1971), Lois Lowry's Number the Stars (Houghton, 1989), Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), and Sandi Toksvig's Hitler's Canary (Roaring Brook, 2007), it's an additional purchase.—Anne Barreca, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Introspective and accessible, this fictionalized history of a Jewish child surviving the Nazi occupation of France uses an elegant simplicity of language. Odette, quite young, lives comfortably in a Paris apartment "on a cobblestone square / with a splashing fountain." Watching a newsreel, she sees "soldiers march, / their legs and arms straight as sticks. / A funny-looking man with a mustache / shouts a speech." The next day, she sees a Jewish-owned store with smashed windows. Mama and Papa are secular, but "[w]e are Polish Jews because / Mama's and Papa's parents and grandparents / in faraway Poland / are all Jews." Papa joins the French army and is taken prisoner; yellow stars are assigned; Mama sends Odette out of Paris. For 2 1/2 years, Odette practices Catholicism in one village and then another, growing attached to religious ritual and the countryside. Macdonald's free verse uses unadorned images: A blanket from Odette's devoted (Christian) godmother; schoolchildren pounding out "La Marseillaise" on desks with their fists to drown out rowdy German soldiers; those same children rolling Odette in a thorn bush when they suspect her secret. Odette's first-person voice matures subtly as she grows in age and in comprehension of the war's horrors. Based on the real Odette Meyers (née Melspajz), this thoughtful, affecting piece makes an ideal Holocaust introduction for readers unready for death-camp scenes. (timeline, historical photographs, author's note) (Historical verse fiction. 9-15)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.93(d)
580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

MARYANN MacDONALD has written more than twenty books, including The Costume Copycat and The Little Piano Girl. She lives in New York, New York.

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Odette's Secrets 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
book4children More than 1 year ago
I have always appreciated books about World War II. There are so many sides to the story, and each one is unique. I love the simple free verse writing in Odette's Secrets. It conveys her feelings and experiences with a distinct voice. It is a beautifully written story of a girl whose family all came back together even after the horrific trials of the war. Odette's experiences are written in a way that is accessible to children. They will be able to connect to her story and hopefully see it for what it is.
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PUB More than 1 year ago
From the first page, this dear little girl, Odette, draws you into her world. You sit beside her in the darkened cinema and see the flash of jack-booted Nazis flash across the screen. You feel the splinters of glass beneath your shoes, surveying the broken shop window with her and her mother. Through the use of free-verse poetry, Odette’s joys, and fears are vividly and perfectly expressed. It all feels so real. You fully comprehend why a child’s concern for the loss of her doll can be on a level equal to her bewilderment of peoples’ hatred of Jews. Odette is aware she is a Jew. But her family is secular; in fact, “Mama and Papa don’t believe in religion”. Soon, though, the reality of her situation cannot be ignored. At 7 ½, she is made aware that she is no longer ‘really’ French—that is, not as she used to be. She is not allowed to play in the park, go to museums and cafes. With much trepidation, she wears a yellow star on her clothes, which invites abuse from other children, as well as from adults. Her life has been turned upside-down. Odette’s world is full of secrets—secrets that protect and allow her to survive. It seems a lot for a little girl to handle, but Maryann MacDonald’s wonderful and sensitive writing helps you understand Odette’s inner strengths, as well as from whom and where they were derived. Truly, this book is a page turner. You don’t want to put it down; you need to know—what will Odette’s fate be? Based on the true story of Odette Meyers, the author thoughtfully includes the tale of how she discovered and came to write Odette’s Secrets, and a timeline of events in Odette’s life. And scattered throughout—and perfectly placed—in the book are photos of the people who figure so greatly in the narrative. Although written primarily for pre and young teens, it will speak to adults on a very personal level; evoking their own childhood memories. I love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poignant and hopeful, Odette's Secrets is the story of a young Jewish girl living in Paris during a tumultuous time. The Nazis have invaded the city and each day brings unexpected travails. Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyers, Maryann MacDonald lovingly captures the heart and soul of a brave young girl as she is forced to flee Paris and create a new identity in the French countryside. A book that will surely stand the test of time, I couldn't put it down and missed hearing Odette's compelling voice when I finished it.