Odette's Secrets: A Geographical Lesson of the Heart

Odette's Secrets is one of the most beautifully written novels I've read in a long while. Written in free-verse, author Maryann Macdonald captures the inner conflict of a young Jewish girl who, in order to survive, must keep her heritage secret. Nazis have destroyed her happy home in France. Her beloved father enlists in the French army. Her mother joins the Resistance, and Odette is taken from Paris live with Christians in the countryside. There, among other things, she questions what it really means to be a Jew, and wonders if she will ever be able to truly live as one.

Maryann thoughtfully explores the sheer essence of humanity while keeping the middle grade reader's sensibilities in mind. Through the eyes of this tender girl, we see the very best and the horrific in all kinds of people. Odette is trying to make sense of her world, which is sometimes warm and loving, yet primarily confusing and contradictory, all the while she must keep her heart shut tight with secrets.

The map foldable sans labelsLet me say that I consider it an honor to have created a guide for this important book and, most especially, for this delightful author. Like all of my guides, I wanted this one to be unique to the topic and theme. Not only did I hope to guide the reader in a deeper awareness of Maryann's intent for the story, I wanted memorable activities that would compliment the experience, as well. One activity is the Map Foldable, which I had a ball making!

The Map Foldable complete!On the map, I focused on the European countries in which Odette's Secrets were set. My hope is that, as the reader snips and tapes away at the simple craft, they will get a real sense of the distances Odette's broken heart had to travel. Follow up questions are included to help guide in this experience.

I maintain that it is the simple things that make a lasting impression. After engaging in heart-felt, introspective discussion about profound themes, such as those explored in Odette's Secrets, kids really enjoy making simple projects such as this. In fact, I think they're downright therapeutic!