Music of the But­ter­fly: A Sto­ry of Hope

Ann M. Leis and Gail Danziger Klein; Patri­cia Hard­wick, illus.
  • Review
By – March 24, 2017

The but­ter­fly is a sym­bol of free­dom, soar­ing col­or­ful­ly, mag­i­cal­ly above our trou­ble-laden world. After the pub­li­ca­tion of the famous poem writ­ten by a child in There­sien­stadt search­ing for anoth­er but­ter­fly after he had seen the very last one, it has evoked for many an image of the elu­sive free­dom denied to chil­dren caught in Hitler’s grip dur­ing the ter­ri­ble years of Holo­caust. The Holo­caust Muse­um of Hous­ton’s But­ter­fly Project also memo­ri­al­izes chil­dren lost in Shoah using but­ter­flies as image of free­dom and hope. In this beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed and touch­ing­ly told sto­ry, the but­ter­fly once again appears as a sym­bol of care­free days filled with col­or and light in the child­hood mem­o­ry of a sur­vivor named Renee Rosen­berg Danziger. 

Renee recalls a charmed, gold­en child­hood in Hun­gary, watch­ing but­ter­flies in her grand­moth­er’s gar­den, danc­ing in a but­ter­fly cos­tume lov­ing­ly made by her moth­er, mak­ing music, play­ing with her cousin and enjoy­ing nature and life on the fam­i­ly farm. These idyl­lic days were cut short by swastikas, yel­low stars and ulti­mate­ly Auschwitz, where fear, suf­fer­ing and death were all around. But the mem­o­ries of sun­light, flit­ting but­ter­flies and the joys that could be found in her imag­i­na­tion could­n’t be destroyed by the Nazis. Visions of those col­or­ful but­ter­flies and the sounds of the music in nature were still alive inside Renee’s head and heart and they gave Renee hope that one day things might improve. Renee did sur­vive and she ulti­mate­ly returned to the world of gar­dens, sun­light and but­ter­flies which she now enjoys with her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. Her mes­sage to the chil­dren of today is to use their imag­i­na­tions. It is vital­ly impor­tant, she feels. It is a means of hope and opti­mism, come what may. 

This uplift­ing book has full-page illus­tra­tions in soft, appeal­ing col­ors which per­fect­ly accent the book’s mes­sage and give an excel­lent feel­ing of time and place. It includes a short biog­ra­phy of Renee and a nota­tion that one of the co-authors is her daugh­ter. It includes a black and white pho­to­graph of Renee’s sis­ter, Lil­li, who did not sur­vive the Holo­caust. In this pho­to­graph, Lil­li is wear­ing a but­ter­fly cos­tume like the one Renee describes in the sto­ry. This pho­to­graph was the inspi­ra­tion for the writ­ing of the book.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 and up.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions