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Odette's Secrets

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For Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, nowhere is safe. So when Odette Meyer’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, Odette’s mother takes desperate measures to protect her, sending Odette deep into the French countryside. There, Odette pretends to be a peasant girl, even posing as a Christian–and attending Catholic masses–with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets, and when the war ends Odette must figure out whether she can resume life in Paris as a Jew, or if she’s lost the connection to her former life forever. Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyer, this moving free-verse novel is a story of triumph over adversity.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published February 26, 2013

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Maryann Macdonald

44 books42 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 271 reviews
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews108 followers
April 26, 2013
"My name is Odette.
I live in Paris."

Odette Meyers lives with her parents in an apartment building in Paris and spends a lots of time with her godmother, Madame Marie, who is also the building's caretaker. Odette is around 5 when the Second World War begins. Her father and uncle immediately enlist in the French army, but are soon captured and sent to a Nazi labor camp. Despite the war, life is OK until the Nazis march into Paris and changes drastically for everyone. And Odette quickly learns that being a secular Jew doesn't matter to the Nazis - they hate all Jews equally.

One night, when the Nazis are rounding up Jews to send east, Madame Marie hides Odette and her mother in her broom closet and deftly manages to keep the Nazis from searching it and the Meyer's apartment. But life is now too dangerous for Odette and her mother, who also works with the French Resistance and it is decided to send Odettte away. With the help of Madame Marie and her husband Monsieur Henri, Odette is sent to live with a family in the French countryside. There she must pretend to be Catholic, learning everything a young Catholic girl would need to know. As she quickly assimilates herself into the life of the family, church and country life, Odette begins to feel safer:

"I know the reason I feel safe in the country.
It's because here,
I am not a Jew."

But when her mother comes at Christmas to visit, she is not really pleased to see her daughter in this new Catholic light, even though it is the reason her child is safe. Before the winter is over, she comes to take Odette away to a little cottage in the country where they can live together. They adjust and begin living a quiet life, until one day Odette's new best friend accuses them of being Jews who have fled Paris. And though she denies the accusation, Odette is nevertheless attacked by the other schoolchildren. Life is again getting more dangerous for Odette and her mother and now the old farmer Père René has overheard Odettte's prayer for Our Lady to watch over them because they are Jewish. Will Père René keep this secret, just as Odette must keep all the secrets she has in order to be safe?

Though fictional, Odette's Secrets is based on the real Odette Meyers. Having acquired as many facts about Odette's life as she could, Maryann MacDonald filled in the blanks using her imagination and ides. The story follows Odette's life for the length of the war, or until she is around 10 years old. It is written in free verse, and at the beginning, Odette's voice is age appropriate and ages as she ages.

Free verse is a style I am really beginning to like for some historical Fiction written for young readers. Odette's Secrets. Its brevity provides a more focused perspective, allowing the reader to really feel the words being read. And though I would recommend a steady diet of free verse novels, I think it is the ideal form for

There a a number of photographs throughout the novel of the real Odette, her mother and the family she lived with. I was sorry there was no picture of Madame Marie, with whom Odette has such a close relationship. This is a wonderful story of one Jewish girl's survival in WWII in Frances. According to the Author's Note at the back of the book, 11, 400 children were deported from France, but 84% of French children did survive. How, MacDonald wondered, did that happen? Odette's Secrets is the result of that thought.

There is a very interesting interview with author Maryann MacDonald over at The Hopeful Heroine in which she discusses her inspiration for this story and her reasons for writing it in free verse.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

This was orginally published on The Children's War
Profile Image for Mary Bronson.
1,454 reviews83 followers
October 17, 2017
This is a historical fiction story about a real woman named Odette. This book was written in free verse poetry which I thought was a great idea. The book was very hard to put down after I got started. This was a touching and heartbreaking story about when Odette was a little girl growing up Jewish during World War II and the horrors she faced. I now want to read her memoir that this book was inspired from.
Profile Image for Margo Tanenbaum.
799 reviews21 followers
March 28, 2014
World War II seems to supply authors, whether those for children or adults, with an inexhaustible supply of true stories for inspiration. Author Maryann Macdonald turns to historical fiction in her new novel, Odette's Secrets, about a young Jewish girl in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. Odette's story is told in spare free verse; we meet her Polish-Jewish parents who have immigrated to Paris with their only daughter Odette. Odette is beloved by her gentile godmother, the concierge at her building, and has a comfortable existence until her father joins the French military, is taken prisoner by the Germans, and conditions began to worsen considerably for the Jewish population of Paris. Soon the round-ups of foreign-born Jews begin, destined to be shipped off to the East. Odette's mother, realizing the danger, makes a plan for her daughter and the daughters of other friends to go stay with family friends in the Vendee, outside of Nazi-occupied France, where she will be in safely in the countryside with plenty to eat.

There's one wrinkle--Odette must forget that she's a Jew. She must blend in perfectly with the village children, learn how to cross herself, say Catholic prayers, attend mass, eat pork, in other words, do nothing that could distinguish her from other children in the village. She becomes very good at keeping secrets--even from her closest friends. But when her mother flees Paris to join her, suspicion follows them just the same. Can they stay safe? And what will happen after the war ends? Will her father and other relatives find them back in Paris?

This is a moving, small novel that can be read quickly but delves into real issues of prejudice, bravery, and how ordinary children can survive in dangerous and extraordinary times This novel is inspired by the life of the real Odette Myers, a story the author discovered while doing research in a Paris library; she was helped in this project by Odette's son, Daniel, who shared family photos and experiences. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,168 reviews18 followers
April 7, 2013
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 should 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 story needed to be told through her feelings and emotion. She 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.
Profile Image for Betsy.
1,704 reviews65 followers
February 23, 2013
Odette's Secrets sounded like it was right up my ally: novel in verse, WWII time period, little explored subject within its time frame. And I did enjoy it. Little Jewish Odette lives in Paris as WWII looms large, and Hitler begins his "cleansing" of Europe. Her father goes to fight for France, and he is soon captured and taken as a prisoner of war. As Paris heats up, her mother hatches a daring plan with other resistance fighters: to send their children to willing strangers in the countryside to keep them safe. The time comes to put this plan into action, and Odette, along with three other girls she's never met before, travel by train to a family they've never met before. They are instructed in all the good Catholic ways, go to a Catholic school, attend a Catholic church, and in general passed off as "good Christians."

A series of events follows this, some heart warming, some heart wrenching. Yet, Odette's Secrets is based on the memories of the real Odette, so we know she survives. And she does.

The story in this short novel in verse is a rich one and worth reading, especially for those who enjoy WWII stories. My one complaint is the format. Although I really enjoy novels in verse, for some reason the format just didn't work for me in this one. I kept realizing I was reading a novel in verse; a really great one will suck you in and the form doesn't keep intruding on your consciousness in such a way as to jerk you back out of the story.

Thanks to netgalley for the ARC
Profile Image for Kelly.
30 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2014
Katelyn has been reading this book for a week, and she talks about it every night and asks so many questions, so I decided to read it. It's a quick one day read, and I couldn't put it down. It's based on a true story of a Jewish girl in Paris who had to leave with 3 other young girls and live with a family in the country to escape the Nazis. Odette is only 8 years old when she has to leave her mother, and I just kept thinking of Katelyn being the same age and I just can't imagine her going through anything like this. I was glad to see (for Katelyn's sake) that her mother and father survive, or Katelyn would have been crying for days and worried about us all the time. A great read - definitely worth a couple hours of your time!
819 reviews
March 7, 2017
Told in verse, very accessible.

At first I didn't think this was going to cover any new ground, but I really liked how the very act of keeping a secret affected Odette. The people she trusted most in the world have told her to lie.

And then, the fact that she found the saints and medals and various Christian rituals very comforting, but knew that they irritated her mother (when she later joined her in the countryside) is an interesting dynamic. Also, feeling safer in the country and not wanting to return to Paris. And not being sure about her father's return after the war: what will that be like? All in all, looks at the horrors of WWII from a very natural, childlike POV.
Profile Image for Medeia Sharif.
Author 21 books428 followers
August 21, 2013
When Odette’s father is taken to a Nazi work camp, her mother does whatever she has to do so she and her daughter can survive. Living in German-occupied Paris is impossible when they are Jewish, so they move. Hiding in the countryside pretending to be Christian is not an easy thing. There are ignorant villagers, the truth ready to bubble over, and issues of money and necessities. This is such a powerful story. The loss of homes, livelihood, and loved ones is a horrible thing to experience. Being in Odette’s head during this short read was riveting, but not easy. If you enjoy historical and verse novels, read this book.
Profile Image for Bethe.
5,924 reviews51 followers
January 31, 2014
2014-15 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. Poignant, heart-breakingly beautiful, sensitive, and sometimes even funny. The poetry chapter is wonderful. I love Odette's self reflection on her confusion about religious beliefs. Favorite quote on page 24: "Not even Nazis can stop you from having a pet in your dreams." Very interesting back matter explains how the author found the inspiration to write the book. A great addition to Holocaust literature for children.
Profile Image for Liza Nahas.
418 reviews29 followers
March 18, 2015
As this was written in verse, my daughter & I read it out loud to each other. It put what it's like living through a war into a perspective to which my 9 year old could relate. There are a few photographs included that my daughter studied in great detail as well. I would certainly recommend this for any 4th, 5th, or 6th grader.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,799 reviews29 followers
May 15, 2015
Another great story from a young person during the Holocaust. This one is without many of the atrocities--Odette is lucky enough to escape to the country and live in hiding as a Christian. This story is less about the war around her and more about Odette finding her identity. Written in verse and beautifully done.
Profile Image for Naiya K.
10 reviews
January 26, 2016
"Odette's Secrets" is about a girl named Odette who lived through the Nazi invasion. Her mother went far and wide to protect her. I recommend this book to anyone who understands hard times VERY well and is interested in knowing about the Nazi invasion.

Overall, I rate this book 10/10 because I really felt something for the character.
Profile Image for Kellie Cruz.
119 reviews8 followers
November 27, 2013
Another great addition to the 2014-15 Bluebonnet list. It is a book which may not be read by students unless introduced by librarians and teachers. I love that about the Texas reading lists…exposure to a variety of books, genres and styles:-)
3 reviews
August 25, 2014
Odette and her mother are living during the war and have to act like Christians until the war is over. I liked because it was intense and all the hiding sounds painful. I would reccomend this to boys or girls who like tragic stories.
15 reviews18 followers
October 17, 2016
I really liked this book! I love Historical Fiction books . They are the best! Hope you really enjoy this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for RhiaRose.
347 reviews
August 31, 2017
I do not usually read poetry style books but it really brought out the story. Written from the perspective of a very young Jewish girl during WWII - emotional and moving. Quick read.
Profile Image for Carol Baldwin.
Author 1 book32 followers
November 15, 2013
I am taking an online writing class, Plot and Structure with Bethany Nuckolls, an instructor in the Center for Writing Excellence. I am learning names for plot elements that I had barely considered--and some I didn't even know existed! As a student, I am encourage to find these elements in a book of my choice. In a mini-blog series about this class, I plan to share some of what I have learned by analyzing two novels.

Stasis: This is the character's original state.

For Odette's Secrets, it is life in Paris in 1942 for a twelve-year-old Jewish girl:

“My name is Odette.
I live in Paris,
On a cobblestone square
With a splashing fountain
And a silent statue.
My hair is curly
Mama ties ribbons in it.
Papa reads to me and buys me toys.
I have everything I could wish for,
Except a cat.” (p.1)

Trigger: Bethany explained that this is, "usually some calamity or opportunity that directly affects the protagonists and their fortunes, awakening them from their Stasis hibernation."

It's Saturday , so Mama and Papa take me to the cinema.
On the huge screen,
Soldiers march,
Their legs and arms straight as sticks.
A funny looking man with a mustache
Shouts a speech.
His name is Hitler.” (p. 1-2)

Objective Correlative This is a new term to me. The Miriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as something that "symbolizes or objectifies a particular emotion and is used in creative writing to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader." In this book, Odette loses her beloved doll Charlotte, a gift from her godmother. When her mother replaces it with a new one, Odette thinks:

“Before long, a new Charlotte peeks out at me
from Mama’s knitting bag.
This Charlotte has a china face too,
And curly brown hair.
She looks the same as the real Charlotte,
Even though I know she’s not.” (p.12-13)

The doll is a marker to the reader about what lies ahead for Odette- she may become "not real" herself.

Launch of the main problem of the book Her father joins the army, German soldiers invade Paris, and Odette's life changes.

“Hitler and his solders are called Nazis.
Papa can’t wait to fight them!” (p.20)

Odette’s Growth begins after her father leaves. Just as he is confident that the French army will return victorious, Odette has confidence that she and her mother will be safe in their small apartment in Paris. The building’s caretaker and godmother, Madame Marie, is Odette’s bastion of refuge:

“My godmother is like the perfect moon.
Always round.
Always full.
Always there.” (p. 8)

Madame Marie disciplines Odette when she skips school one day and informs her that she “needs to clean up the mess in your heart." (p. 37) Although she doesn’t instruct Odette to confess to her mother that she played hooky, the message is clear--tell the truth. Later, Madame Marie lies to soldiers who come looking for Odette and her mother. This second message cements in Odette’s brain: some secrets and lies are acceptable. Odette grows as she learns she must keep her identity secret in order to stay alive. She is learning to navigate a new world.

First Odette, and then her mother, move to the country where they take on a Catholic identity. Odette thinks she is doing this successfully until her world comes crashing down (Shock) when some village children attack her for being Jewish. Although she denies it and her mother successfully enlists the mayor’s “pretend” support, Odette fears that her true identity will be discovered.

“Mama gives a party to show the villagers
that we are still ready to be friends.

I pretend to have a good time.
I keep all my sadness and anger buried inside,
Like all my other secrets.
It’s safer that way.

I can’t stop being scared, though.
So scared, that one day I stop going to school.
So scared that I even stop talking.” (p. 146-7).

When Paris is liberated, Odette’s mother decides they must return home. Despite the troubles she endured, Odette hates to leave her country village. She says goodbye to her favorite places, her cat Bijou, and then gives her friend, Simone a present:

“The morning Mama and I leave,
I give Charlotte to Simone,
To make sure she’ll look after Bijou.
I don’t trust Simone, not really.
I have never told her that I’m a Jew.
Mama and I agree about this.
We still keep it a secret here that we are Jewish…
a secret from everyone.” (p. 169)

Odette’s Critical Choice comes in two parts: first, she must turn her back on her Catholic identity and the safety of her country home; and second, she returns to Paris and resumes her Jewish identity.

Before a ceremony when the ashes of French Jewish dead will be buried, Odette wonders where she belongs. At the cemetery, a woman comes forward and clings to her as if she was her own daughter. That night Odette concludes:

I don't need to hide anymore,
and I don't want to keep any more secrets.
Secrets stand in my way.
They stop me from knowing who I am.
I am a Jew.
I'm sure of it.
And I will always be one. (p. 205)
3 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2016
This is a good book because it contains mystery and says somethings that happened during that time period. I also like that the books is told in poems because it makes it more interesting.
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,152 reviews11.3k followers
December 3, 2015
[Originally posted on the blog]

It's always interesting to dip into historical fiction, especially when it's written to cater to a younger audience. Odette's Secrets was a sweetly told fictional account of Odette Meyer's experience as a Jew in the time of World War II. What made it unique was the fact that it was written in verse, a type of writing that I haven't had that much experience with. Macdonald managed to write an account that was easy to relate to and informative, and I think a lot of readers will like this one.

The fact that it's a verse novel really caught me off guard when I started this novel. Once I finished, I realized that being told in verse suited the story well. The passages were short, and so Macdonald had to take care to choose the right words to properly convey Odette's feelings and experiences. It became an easy read for me due to its brevity, which I'm sure other readers will appreciate. But the best part about it being in verse is that we are allowed to imagine for ourselves the extra details that would have been in a narrative account (or at least I did).

Odette began the story as very much a child, and there was definitely an authenticity to the language chosen for the verses. Her voice transforms over the course of the novel as she experiences the heartache and heartbreak that the war brings into her life, and she ends the novel older and more mature. Even though the verses only give us glimpses into moments of her life, there's a strong sense of who she is - innocent, kind, loving to her family and friends, curious, intelligent and even confused by the circumstances she faces at times. While she certainly had to learn to live on her own strength, it's a pleasure to see that Odette manages to retain some optimism up until the end of this novel.

Her story really is incredible, and Macdonald took care to pay tribute to that. Readers will see a lot of the things that happened to her - the hard stuff, the bad stuff and the good stuff. Even though there are certainly bits and pieces that were dreamed up, it is not hard to believe that the foundation of this story is the truth about Odette's life.

Reading about historical facts, like the Jews who were either in hiding or captured and sent to camps, was so heartbreaking. The novel bears witness to families torn apart and friends turning into enemies, and it affected me deeply. Thinking about this period of time always leaves me feeling heartbroken at the cruelty that the Jews endured, but it also reminds me of their resilience and strength and hope too.

Odette's Secrets is a wonderful free verse historical fiction novel for young readers. While readers don't learn the facts and figures of World War 2, they do get to experience the effects of that time through the eyes of a child. Using verse to write this story was a unique choice, and I found that it worked tremendously well for me as a reader.
Profile Image for Texas State Poder.
181 reviews2 followers
December 9, 2016
Ok....I am sooooo sorry that I cannot get straight into this book. I mean yes I could just go "this story is about this girl..." but honestly I HAVE! to go deeper because this story is to good for a introduction like --->"My name is Odette and I live in a town ..." (supposed to be an arrow..just letting you know) So people be prepared to be so amazed !!!
Have you ever been so scared or so worried that where ever you go you go nervous and like someone where watching you ? ( I have... it was when I was in the ... *cough* cough* back to the story sorry about that :| ) Anyway Odette (our main character) lives in Paris and she has anything she could wish for except a cat ( a cat ??really I have everything except a dog :|...I know... I am a dog lover not cat ... sorry to disappoint ya'll cat lovers <3 ) It is all calm in Paris , nuns in their white and black uniforms,random people walking to stores and all sunshine and rainbows,until a soldier yells a announcement and every-one freaks out because (are ready?) all they see are bombs going off and on !! (please if any one where that brave to move on they should get an Oscar for the most "brave" on the battle field *cough* *cough* not going to happen!)Anyways Odette's parents are all so scared that they made a decision I would of made If I was there , they sent her away to a village where Odette's mom's friend lived , Madam Raffin ,where she would be protected and she was , but there was one problem she had to become a Christian and she doesn't know how to pray or what even to say so Madame Raffin (the lady her mom and dad sent her with) thought her how to and surprisingly, she was relieved and happy to know how to be part of her new family.
Months passed by and her mother came to visit her with some news ...(uh-oh this can't be good) her mother had a happy look on her face but she also had like a "I've been thinking how to say this the whole way over here look" . So what do you think her mom will tell Odette , do you think it will be good news or bad ? READ THIS BOOK TO FIND OUT !!!!!
I recommend this book to Camille,Mrs.Reicks and Leaya because these are some people who really get into realistic-fiction books such as this one . But don't worry this is a book for anybody and if I didn't mention you then just know that this book is just right for a Realistic-fiction person.
Read to find out what twist and turns are set around in this book. :-)
9 reviews
December 3, 2018
With anti-semitism on the rise in Paris, Odette is no longer safe. Her father was away with the military but quickly sent to a work camp. Her mother and godmothers' fears encourage them to send Odette to the French countryside to live as a Catholic until the war is over. In the countryside, Odette assumes a new identity and abandons the yellow star she was once forced to wear. When Odette joins the Raffin family, she along with several other Jewish children in hiding, practice Catholic prayers and rituals while maintaining that they are all family. This new way of life becomes very confusing for Odette and she struggles to hang on to her Jewish roots. After over two years, Odette's mother comes to the village and they move into a small home together. Odette tries to teach her mom the Catholic ways, but her mother is not very interested. Rumors start spreading and Odette is eventually attacked by her classmates who suspect she is Jewish. Odette feels torn and needs to confess her secrets to someone, but knows that she cannot trust anyone with the information she has been guarding for so long. This book is based on the real life of Odette Meyers, a Holocaust survivor and civil rights activist.

Written in prose, this book explores many themes that students struggle with even today. It is a true coming of age tale that explores identity conflicts while providing a real life, historically accurate account. I would use this book with higher elementary and middle grades students. It would make an excellent choice novel or a read aloud. I would use excerpts from the book during a unit on the Holocaust to talk about how Jewish children were affected by anti-semitism. I would also use the ending of this book to address important themes about staying true to yourself and self discovery. This book could also be used during a poetry unit to discuss prose. I would encourage students who enjoy this book to also read "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" to discover how another group of children managed during WW2, and to research the Kindertransport.

This was a WOW book for me for several reasons. As an avid Holocaust fiction reader I loved that this book not only provided factual information but introduced themes that children today can also relate to. The writing flowed so freely and I was finished reading in no time. I can easily see this being a book that introduces students to a new genre and encourages them to branch out to research on their own.
Profile Image for Anners.
64 reviews6 followers
January 10, 2013
Maryann Macdonald’s Odette’s Secrets is a fictional retelling of a young Jewish girl’s life in hiding during the Nazi occupation of France. This middle-grade historical fiction novel brings little new to the genre of Holocaust fiction, but is a strong introduction to the topic in the same tradition as classics such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, or Number the Stars. Odette’s story opens as WWII is just beginning and persecution of Jews in France is escalating. After Paris falls to the Nazis, Odette must be rushed to the countryside, where she hides in plain sight by living with a Christian foster family and pretending to be Catholic.

The strength of this book lies in its factual accuracy. In preparation for this book, the author collaborated with Odette Meyers’ son, who supplied her with his mother’s poetry, film clips, autobiography, and photos (five of which are included). Maryann Macdonald does a good job weaving facts about Odette's life and the historical events taking place at the time with imagined scenarios Odette may have experienced.

Odette’s story is a good introduction for children interested in how WWII and the Holocaust affected the everyday lives of kids their age. This book is not as dark or graphic as many others on this topic (it has a happy ending, and there are no scenes set in concentration camps). Odette is a strong character that middle-school aged girls will be able to relate to, but the absence of major male characters has the potential to turn off boys.

The author’s free-verse prose style, ostensibly intended to create a more poetic and engaging narrative in fact may make readers acutely aware that an adult is trying to write from a child’s perspective. The format sounds not so much poetic as fragmentary and unorganized, and it is questionable whether children will appreciate the style of presentation. A straightforward non-fiction biographical account may have been preferable and more accessible to children who are interested in this topic. This book is a solid entry, but in a field with so many classics and reinterpretations of similar stories, it is difficult to see where this title will find a place. Overall this book is a good introduction to a young reader unfamiliar with the Holocaust or WWII, but from a collection development standpoint, it has little new or unique to offer.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews104 followers
February 25, 2013
This true story of a young Jewish girl growing up in Nazi-occupied Paris is told in verse. Odette’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp and her mother works hard to protect Odette. As the Jews in Paris are steadily more badly treated, Odette has to wear a yellow star on her clothing and is unwelcome in many places in the city. Even at school, Odette is bullied for being Jewish. When their apartment is raided in the middle of the night, Odette and her mother hide in their landlady’s cupboard. After that, Odette is sent to the country to live. There she learns to pretend to be Christian so that she isn’t discovered. When her mother is forced to flee Paris, the two of them move together to live in the French countryside as peasants, but Nazis and bigotry are never far behind. Odette learns that sometimes secrets are vital to survival and just as hard to stop keeping as they are to keep.

Macdonald writes in her author’s note about the inspiration for creating a children’s book that tells the story of the real Odette. It is interesting to learn about the transition from straight nonfiction to a verse novel. I’m so pleased that the end result was this novel in free verse, because Macdonald writes verse with a wonderful eye to both the story she is telling and the poetry itself. She truly creates the scenes of Paris and the French countryside in her poems, making each place special and amazing.

Perhaps most amazing is Odette herself, a protagonist living in a brutal and complicated time, forced to lie to stay alive. Odette has to learn to deal with the fear she lives in every day, something that no one should have to get used to. There was the fear of slipping and telling the secrets she held but also the fear that someone could figure out they were Jewish without any slip from Odette. Macdonald creates quite a dramatic series of events that point out that Odette was terrified for very good reason.

Beautiful verse combined with a true story of a young girl World War II France makes this a very successful book that cuts right to the heart and lays all its secrets bare. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Profile Image for Daija Jefferson.
9 reviews3 followers
October 1, 2014
If you love learning or reading about historic fiction this is the book for you.The genre of this book is historical fiction because it tells about how Jewish and french did not get along a long time ago but it is fiction because this didn't happen to this exact person but it happened before. I thought that this book was very good in interesting because its kinds about history and I love to learn about history and I also love learning about important stuff that happened in that time period.The setting of my book is in Paris at Odette's house in 1942,and the setting effects my story because this happened a long time ago in people probably still don't like Jewish. So this book is basically about a girl named odette and she is Jewish and back then french people did not like jew's, so odette is trying to find a way so that she can become like other kids like going to school with other kids,play in the park with other kids,and go to stores and eat regular food and stuff like that. This is a type of person v.s. society kinda book because she want Jewish to be free like french.

I couldn't understand why French people didn't like Jewish people i think that's really bogus because some of the french and Jewish is the same race and usually people either don't like somebody because of their race,or their family member didn't get along with them,or because of the way they act. For example odette said " the water fountain said for french only", or "mommy why don't french like us".

I like the part when Odette went to a new family so if her mom was to get tooken she wouldn't get took away with her mom so her mom decided to send her away to a good family so that she can eat well and have nice clothes and go to school. So I believe that that was my favorite part .

So I decided to rate this book 5 stars because I really thought this book was interesting and also I love historic fiction. I recommend this book to everybody that loves historic fiction. SO IF YOU LIKE BOOKS ABOUT HISTORICAL FICTION OR SOMETHING LIKE HISTORY THIS IS THE BOOK FOR U.
3 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2013

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.
Profile Image for Kerri Lukasavitz.
Author 7 books38 followers
March 16, 2021
Odette Melspajz (married name Meyers), a young Polish Jew, lives in Paris with her mama and papa at the start of World War II. Her mama and papa left Poland for a safer home in France as Hitler started to gain power in Europe. In November 1939, her papa joins the French army to fight against the Nazis but is captured and kept prisoner in a death camp, leaving Odette and her mother to try and survive on their own as Germany invades France and then rounds up foreign-born Jews to be sent to the prison camps in Poland. How will they avoid being arrested? What secrets must young Odette keep to outlive the war?

"Odette's Secrets" by Maryann Macdonald is an exceptional book. Classified as children's fiction, the novel is based on the true life of Odette Melspajz Meyer as she tries to survive World War II. Macdonald's ability to bring Odette to life through a fictionalized first person point of view is nothing short of miraculous - readers young and adult will be pulled into Odette's story from her first words to her last ones. The depth of research, attention to details, and heartfelt respect used to write such a remarkable book is evident in Macdonald's work. Actual black and white Melspajz family photos sprinkled throughout the book are a charming addition to the story. What's even more unique is how Macdonald uses a poetry format but actually writes the story in prose - a format she chose when she learns that Odette Meyer loved to read, especially poetry, and that reading poems kept her going when things looked bleak for her mother and her. The format adds to the tempo of the story (I read it in one sitting - I didn't want to put it down).

There's a reason "Odette's Secrets" is a Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List Book - it's absolutely award-worthy. Highly recommended for young readers and adults.
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,606 reviews229 followers
February 20, 2013
Originally posted at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald is a historical fiction novel based on facts from the life of a real girl who fled Paris and lived as a hidden child during the Nazi occupation because she was Jewish.

Stories of the many Jewish children who hid within other families and pretended to be some one they aren't are fascinating to me. Odette's story is no different. The first person narration helps the reader really see through Odette's eyes and fell the things she is experiencing. The story spans five years, from the Nazi invasion until the end of the war, which makes the story complete and gives it full resolution. I thought the author did a great job conveying Odette's confusion and struggles over what is truth and what is fiction. The atmosphere of the book conveys the danger and horror of the period without being too harsh or frightening for younger readers. That is a fine line to balance.

The book is written in free verse and that is not a style I enjoy and this did impact how much I liked the book. If a book is in free verse I need to see it as a necessity, like there was simply no other way to tell the story and that just wasn't the case here. In some places I felt it lent a stilted awkwardness the prose that was jolting more than anything else. Being in free verse makes it a quick and easy read which is always a good thing to have on hand for kids who don't like or can't read longer books.

Kids who love historical fiction and want to read more about World War II will enjoy this book.

I read a copy of this book made available on NetGalley. Odette's Secrets is on sale February 26.
Profile Image for Cindy Hudson.
Author 15 books23 followers
June 3, 2013
Odette was four years old living in Paris with her mother and father at the outbreak of World War II. Right away her father volunteered for the army and went off to fight. As time went by things got more and more difficult for Jewish families in Paris, and Odette’s mother made plans for where they would go if they needed to escape the city.

Odette’s real life story has been brought to life in fiction for young readers in Odette’s Secrets by Maryann Macdonald. After reading Odette’s autobiography, Macdonald knew her story must be told, and she tells it in a child’s voice. This makes the tale even more poignant, as we see the events in Paris and then in the countryside of France through a young person’s eyes.

While the dangers for Odette and her mother were real, we see the multitude of non-Jews who helped them escape detainment during the war years. There’s the couple she calls godmother and godfather, who own the building Odette lives in and who help her escape the city. There’s the family in southern France who welcome several children into their household, certainly at risk to themselves and their own children.

But Odette learns she must keep secrets and disguise her true identity because some people are not so willing to help. As she learns to be a good Catholic, she also questions the differences between the religion she was born into and the one she embraces in order to escape detection. The story is fascinating, and Macdonald stays true to how a child would see the issues she is facing.

Odette’s Secrets is not only a great novel to introduce young readers to the story of Jews in France during World War II, it’s also a good book to read overall. I highly recommend it.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Dan Rogers.
631 reviews13 followers
April 20, 2014
As a 5th grade teacher I'm always on the lookout for new, lesser known titles to introduce to my students. Recently a couple of colleagues attended a professional development seminar presented by a 5th grade teacher. This is one of the books which she mentioned she uses with her students. Initially I thought that I'd use this book as I assigned narrative poetry novels to my students to read. Upon further reflection I decided to make it a themed reading assignment instead. Since I was already familiar with other books which deal with The Holocaust I decided to read this one to see if I might include it as well. What transpired is best described as an experience.
I was deeply moved by the story, wiping moisture from my eyes as I finished reading it. My heart ached for Odette as she had so much growing up to do in such a short period of time. Then, to also have to try to understand things which only a grown up should have to deal with was sad.
Quite often I mention to my students that they are never fully finished with a book, especially an Historical Fiction selection, until they have read the Author's notes. I explain that this part of the book gives the reader so much insight into the what's, why's and wherefore's surrounding the author's inspiration and motivation to undertake writing the story in the first place. Maryann Macdonald, a huge thank you for writing such a marvelous story. Odette Meyers' story will certainly live on for a long time through what you have written. My students will be some of those "who will come to know her life and times, her spirit and determination to survive, through this book."
Profile Image for Angie.
3,624 reviews44 followers
July 8, 2014
Odette lives in Paris with her mother and father. They are non-practicing Jews and have a good life in Paris. Then the Nazis come into power and things begin to change. First her father joins the French Army and is taken prisoner by the Germans. Then the Nazis start rounding up the Jews of Paris. Odette's mother is prepared however and Odette gets sent to the Vendee countryside with several other little girls. They are going to hide in plain sight not as Jews but as Christian girls escaping the violence of Paris. Odette must learn the Catholic prayers and the sign of the cross and never tell anyone she is Jewish. Odette considers this just one more secret she must keep. Her mother soon joins her in the country which makes things even more difficult. They spend the war safely ensconced in their country cottage, but suspicions still follow them. After the war they are able to return to Paris and their home, but life will never be the same.

I really enjoy novels in verse and thought the format really worked for this book. Odette's Secrets is based on the true story of Odette Meyer and how she and her family survived the war. Odette was able to blend in as a Christian girl and actually came to enjoy praying and different aspects of Christian life. It is amazing how adaptable people, especially children, can be. I am always fascinated by the stories of how people survived during WWII. These stories make me wonder if I would be as strong or as brave as those who fought against the Nazis and did what they must to survive.
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