by Maryann Macdonald
a middle reader must!
Odette’s Secrets begins “I live in Paris…but it is about the change…soldiers march, their legs and arms straight as sticks. A funny looking man with a mustache shouts a speech. His name is Hitler. What are these soldiers? Why do they move like machines?” For Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, nowhere is safe. So when Odette Meyer’s father, an enlisted soldier in the French Army, is sent to a Nazi work camp, Odette’s mother takes measures to protect her. With the help of her godmother, Madame Marie, and Monsieur Henri Odette is sent deep into the French countryside. There she pretends to be a peasant girl attending Catholic masses with other children. On the outside she is like all the other children. On the inside, Odette is burning with secrets and questions. When the war ends Odette must figure out how she can go back to her old life in Paris. It’s not easy when even the things that are the same – Mama and Papa, the bed, even the pots and pans – have a totally different feel and understanding. Secrets are never fully shared even when they are told, especially the secrets that were used for solving problems.
Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyer, this beautifully flowing free-verse novel is a story of triumph over adversity. Maryann Macdonald began this project as a biography. In her author’s note she explains that as she wrote, Odette’s story needed to be told through her feelings and emotion. Odette needed to speak to us, and through Macdonald, she does. Her questions and fears, her confusion and understanding, her joy and devastation are artfully shared as her secrets are revealed. Odette’s Secrets is an astonishing story of determination and care. The story of how one person was connected to so many others offers a full picture into life at the time – and how life forever after would be changed. Odette’s Secret is a book to read and read again.
Here’s a link to another blog review with an interview of the author. It’s interesting to know how she came upon this story.