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.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
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.