Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-2015

Resources for the TBA Nominees

Odette’s Secrets


Odette’s Secrets
by Maryann Macdonald

Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

Readers Theater Script – Odette’s Secrets (PDF)


Official Book Trailer:

The author’s website:

Author’s notebook, an interview with the author of Odette’s Secrets: http://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/authors-notebook-maryann-macdonald-odettes-secrets/

Discussion and activity guide for Odette’s Secrets, written by Maryann Macdonald

Maryann MacDonald’s speech from the United States Board on Books for Young People’s program at the ALA 2014 Midwinter Meeting

Hidden Children in the Holocaust:

Background information for the teacher:

Photo “Jews are not welcome here”:

The Psychological Aftermath, Bloeme Evers-Emden:

Life in Shadows: Hidden Children in the Holocaust: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (virtual tour – study guide available):

Secret Lives: Hidden children and their rescuers during WWII   (2002):
A gripping film that will bring up the issue of kin, allegiance and continued existence. After non-Jewish households throughout the Holocaust rescued Jewish youngsters, these children had to resolve an important matter: Who are my true family: the Jewish parents who created me, or the gentile parents who took me in?  This film is unrated.

Hidden in Plain Sight – Anagrams:
This can be used as a worksheet or a more kinesthetic activity by making letters of the alphabet from poster board and have children hold them as the audience directs their movement to try to find the hidden word.      

And now the news…:
Make a TV screen from a large cardboard box and use it to “broadcast” news of the war. Children can write news announcements using the timeline in the back of the book.
Directions to make a TV set.

References from the book:

Rodin’s Thinker:

Recipe and instructions for homemade playdough:
Students will enjoy sculpting figures after observing the Rodin information. They could also use the dough to fashion medals of the saints, after hearing the following stories.                 http://www.myasdiary.com/2013/12/10/homemade-play-doh-picture-tutorial/
The above link is a child’s pictorial tutorial. If blogs are blocked for you, use this link:

The legend of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers:

The legend of St. George, the patron saint of soldiers:

The legend of St. Michael, the Archangel:                                                              http://www.saintmichaelusa.org/smstory.php

Star of David suncatcher:
Construct this and hang it as a remembrance of the Jewish children who were hidden and survived to be reunited with their families, the children who survived as orphans, and the children who were killed in the Holocaust. Their only crime was being born Jewish.


Read the inside front flap of the book jacket.


Other historical fiction on the same subject (hidden children):

Propp, Vera W. When the soldiers were gone. After the German occupation of the Netherlands ends, Benjamin, a Jewish boy hidden by Righteous Gentiles, reluctantly leaves the Christian family with whom he had been living, and reunites with his almost forgotten parents, who also have come out of hiding. (NoveList)

Mazer, Norma Fox. Good night, Maman. After spending years fleeing from the Nazis in war-torn Europe, twelve-year-old Karin Levi and her older brother Marc find a new home in a refugee camp in Oswego, New York. (NoveList)

Other historical fiction in the same writing style (attention-grabbing):

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Willow Run. During World War II, after moving with her parents to Willow Run, Michigan, when her father gets a job in the B-24 bomber-building factory, eleven-year-old Meggie learns about different kinds of bravery from all of the people around her. (NoveList)

Hahn, Mary Downing. Stepping on the cracks. In 1944, while her brother is overseas fighting in World War II, eleven-year-old Margaret gets a new view of the school bully Gordy when she finds him hiding his own brother, an army deserter, and decides to help him. (NoveList)

Peck, Richard. On the wings of heroes. A boy in Illinois remembers the homefront years of World War II, especially his two heroes–his brother in the Air Force and his father, who fought in the previous war. (NoveList)

Other novels in verse in the same genre (historical fiction):

Hesse, Karen. Letters from Rifka. In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family’s flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others emigrate to America. (NoveList)

Roy, Jennifer Rozines. Yellow star. From 1939, when Syvia is four and a half years old, to 1945 when she has just turned ten, a Jewish girl and her family struggle to survive in Poland’s Lodz ghetto during the Nazi occupation. (NoveList)

Williams-Garcia, Rita. One crazy summer. In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp. (NoveList)

Other historical fiction with the same appeal factor (moving):

Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone does my shirts. A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister. (NoveList)

Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for now. While Doug struggles to be more than the thug that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, as they explore Audubon’s art. (NoveList)

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little house on the prairie. A family travels from the big woods of Wisconsin to a new home on the prairie, where they build a house, meet neighboring Indians, build a well, and fight a prairie fire. (NoveList)


Odette’s Secrets. By Maryann MacDonald. 2013. 224p. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (9781599907505). Gr. 5–8. (Booklist, April 15, 2013).

Set in France during WWII, Odette’s Secrets is a novelization, in verse, of the life of Odette Meyers, whose autobiography, Doors to Madame Marie (1997) was an inspiration for this book. When life in Paris becomes too dangerous for Jews, including Odette, the young girl is sent to the countryside, where she must disguise herself as a French peasant and Christian, keeping her true identity a closely guarded secret. After many months, Odette’s mother, who has worked with the French Resistance, joins her and, like Odette, must lose her own Jewish identity. Two and one-half years later, Paris is liberated, and Odette and her mother return to the city, but can Odette resume her true identity as a Jew or has her assumed Christianity become too much a part of her being? Though sometimes lacking in drama, this quiet story will nevertheless offer readers new insights into considerations of being a Jew during WWII and the complex ways that we define our identity.— Michael Cart

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Macdonald, Maryann. 2013. Odette’s Secrets. New York: Bloomsbury. Hardback: 9781599907505.

In this free-verse novel, Macdonald imagines the thoughts of Odette Meyers, a real girl who survived the Holocaust by leaving her home in Paris when she was eight and posing as a Catholic in the French countryside. Beginning in Paris, the story is full of little-girl insights and perspectives on the rapid changes taking place in Odette’s neighborhood as hatred of the Jews invades Paris along with the Nazis. Her father joins the army and is quickly taken prisoner, while her mother begins work with the Resistance. Their landlord, Odette’s beloved godmother, hides Odette and her mother when soldiers come to take them away, and eight-year-old Odette is sent into the countryside. There she grows to love not only country life but also Catholicism. In fact, she is almost disappointed when her mother comes to join her, and Odette must hide her affection for the teachings and traditions of the church and its loving, protecting God and his saints. Their return to Paris entails a question for Odette: is she still Jewish, and does she want to be? Macdonald harvests the mundane and everyday for her poetic imagery and imbues these things with the significance of history, identity, and healing for Odette, effectively maintaining a believably childlike perspective throughout. She also subtly forecasts Odette’s adult life as a poet and professor active in the survivor community by showcasing incidents that highlight Odette’s compassion and her sensitivity to the healing effects of poetry. Include this book in the Holocaust curriculum, and young readers will be able to readily identify with Odette’s concerns and fears as they come to understand the larger contexts. An author’s note, timeline, and pictures of Odette and others who featured in the book are included. Review Code: R — Recommended. Grades 4-6. Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, April 2013 (Vol. 66, No. 8))

Horn Book:
Odette’s Secrets

by Maryann Macdonald
Intermediate     Bloomsbury     227 pp.
2/13     978-1-59990-750-5     $16.99

In this free-verse novel closely based on a true story (with photographs at the end), a little French girl recounts her childhood during World War II. Born to Polish atheist Jews, Odette lives a pleasant life with her parents in Paris, while Madame Marie, their upstairs neighbor, takes on a special role as her godmother. Paris becomes increasingly dangerous after her father enlists in the army and her mother joins the Resistance, and after a frightening visit from soldiers where Madame Marie hides Odette and her mother in a closet and says all the right, terrible things about Jews in order to protect them, Odette is sent to a country village, posing as a Christian. The uncertainty of her life filled with secrets is beautifully realized, along with the hard choices she must make. “Did God punish me because I told a lie, / said that I was not Jewish? / But my mother told me to lie. / ‘It’s a matter of life or death,’ she said. / And the priest tells us to obey our parents.” The free-verse narration opts for directness over lyricism, allowing Odette’s terror, confusion, and gradual acceptance of her new life and new familiarity with God to come through in a very personal way. Macdonald delicately balances the reader’s happiness that the heroine survives with an understanding of her deep, permanent sorrow for her people, ones she knew and ones she didn’t. SUSAN DOVE LEMPKE – Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
Macdonald, Maryann. Odette’s Secrets.

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


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