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Friday, November 01, 2013

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald

Some thoughts on a book of courage and strength - and secrets --- 

Macdonald, Maryann.  (2013) Odette's Secret by Maryann Macdonald (Bloomsbury, 2013) ISBN: 978-1-59990-750-5; $16.99.

I've been meaning to write this dialogue about Odette's Secret for weeks now.  I've been busy working on a manuscript and never seem to have enough time to get to this.  However, today I saw this book again on my writing desk and knew it had to come -- so a little 'interlude" from my manuscript writing and onto sharing a great new book with you.  
Odette's story takes place during the Holocaust. Germans were invading Paris and Jewish people were fleeing in the face of the danger.  Odette was Jewish as were both of her parents.  Her father joined the French Army and her mother joined the Resistance.  Both were fearful for their daughter's safety.  So Odette joined the hundreds of children who were sent somewhere into the countryside to escape detection as a Jewish child.  She takes on a complete new identify and even attends Catholic mass to keep the ruse a secret.  Her whole life is a secret.  Writing and poetry play a prominent role.  Eventually Odette's mother joins her in the countryside but neighbors begin to suspect the truth.  Courage and survival -- this is a story of both.
Written in free verse and of definite appeal to middle grade readers.  Some will decry the absence of male characters as a deterrent to male readership.  I don't think that male readers are so egotistic as to think that ALL interesting characters are male.  Odette's story is filled with suspense, history, and plenty of interest -- males and females alike will identify with the child - parent relationship and the emotion of being separated and faced with keeping a secret that meant life and death.

Since by now others have contributed reviews to several news agencies I want to take a different approach.  When I read I like to take notes - brief quotes from the book, or quotes from my mind... and I am going to share those with you. Make of these what you will...

  • "Twist vegetables from their stem."
  • At night: "I imagine my mother's face.  It floats in the air just outside my window."
  • Father is a prisoner.
  • Dark hole dug deep into the earth.
  • A measure of poverty — "And I will get used to it.  She's right.  I do."
  • "A farmer lets me cut hay with a sickle."
  • far up in the hills, / all alone
  • ...retreats into her own solitude.
  • but lured back by poetry... it even lures her to return to school with the village children.
  • poetry sustained her father, too, as he  traveled 8 mos. from his liberated POW camp home to Paris.
  • brought her, not a pearl necklace, but a leather bound notebook.
  • The Story of all the secrets I kept and the story of my lost-and-found heart.
In short - read the book, you (and any YA reader) who enjoys a suspenseful, not so dark but realistic story based on a true story of a survivor of World War II's Holocaust will surely enjoy this one.  This one is among the best.

If you are a teacher/librarian and wish to take a look at a teacher's guide for this book - download it here

Read other reviews of this book:
Hiding in Plain Site: A Review of Odette's Secrets by Lyn Miller Lachman
Odette's Secrets: A Review | The New York Public Library
The Publisher's page for this book. Bloomsbury Publishing
 Odette's Secret on Facebook. - 
Page featuring Odette's Secret on the author's website.  
Odette's Secrets | Maryann Macdonald | Jewish Book Council
Odette's Secrets — Kid's Books 101
Official book trailer from Flatline-Films
"Odette's Secrets" review by Claire Martin - Denver Post — Pages
The Children's War  A review of Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald; review by a former NYC public school teacher (4th grade), Alex.

For those of you who are interested in additional books that take place during the time World War II was taking place may wish to take a look at this bibliography: "Historical Novels and Picture Books for World War II  -- Dr. Seuss and More.

Visit the author, MaryAnn Macdonald's website.

Happy Reading.


  1. Odette’s Secrets by Maryann Macdonald is the book about WWII that all we middle-grade librarians have been waiting for -- a story that touches on the horrors of the Holocaust without horrifying children. This is an historical fiction novel about the Hidden Children of WWII, as it tells the story of one of them, namely Odette Meyers. The book is in free verse in the voice of the young Odette who kept secret her Jewish heritage while hiding as a Christian in the French countryside during the Nazi’s run on France. Odette’s Secrets is complete with photographs of Odette and her family and friends as well as some of her writings. It truly is a book you can’t put down and I highly recommend adding it to your collection.
    Margo Hastings, librarian at The Mandell School, 795 Columbus Ave. NYC, NY. Email:

  2. Margo,
    Thank you so much for sharing your review of this book with readers of this blog. I am pleased that you have "found" this book and are introducing it to your students. I love the interplay of the significance of poetry throughout the book. The fact that a reoccurring theme is poetry in a verse novel intrigues me. Thanks for sharing your review.