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Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli


by Jerry Spinelli

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This story is set in Poland during WWII. It follows the story of an unnamed orphan child. He is young and cannot remember how he ended up on the street. The story follows him as he gets older through many trials and tribulations, such as his abandonment by his protector, an older boy, the deaths of his friends, and being forced into the notorious Warsaw ghetto. During this time in particular, Misha, the main character, is forced to use his skills from the street to feed his adopted family. I can see main curricular connections to this book. I think it is a fantastic way for students to experience what it would have been like to live in the ghetto. As well, the book is written at about a fifth grade reading level, so most teenage students should be able to access it. It would be good for transitional readers.
  jstrecker | Feb 29, 2016 |
I just didn't get into this book. It was a bit strange and difficult to follow at times. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
I just didn't get into this book. It was a bit strange and difficult to follow at times. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
The young boy has never known a life other than living on the streets of Warsaw and stealing food to survive. He is befriended by a group of young Jewish boys who live in abandoned buildings and steal whatever they can to survive. The leader of the group, Uri, gives the young boy a name, "Misha", and makes up a family story for Misha to memorize about a Gypsy family that was killed several years ago. Uri insists that Misha tell everyone he is a Gypsy so that the ever-present gestapo does not think Misha is a Jew. Misha is naive and trusting, believing the German soldiers marching down the street are in a parade and he admires their shiny "jack-boots", hoping to one day belong to such a handsome group. Uri strikes Misha, telling him to never say such a thing again.

Misha meets a young Jewish girl, Janina Milgrom, and the two quickly become fast friends. When the Milgrom family is moved to the Warsaw ghetto, Misha is happy to go with them as part of their family, unaware of the danger that surrounds them all. As the food becomes scarce behind the ghetto walls, Misha and Janina sneak through a small opening in the wall every night to steal whatever food they can find. When the trains begin transporting the people to a "land of repatriation", Mr. Milgrom pleads with Misha to take Janina and run away. Janina does not want to leave her family but Misha knows that the German soldiers have lied and that getting on the train will lead them to their death.

This is an intense young adult novel that is well written with wonderful characters. Misha is a sweet child who cannot understand the hatred that he sees around him every day. He has a big heart and wishes to share everything he has with those he cares about even when it puts him in extreme danger. The Warsaw ghetto is realistically portrayed along with the desperation of the people trapped behind the wall. Through it all, Misha never loses hope or love for his "sister" Janina.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
This was another book of Juvenile Fiction that I listened to. It is the story of an orphaned boy, about eight years old, who knows nothing about himself and is "adopted" by a group of Jewish youth in Warsaw, since they assume he is one of them. He does not even know his name - the only name that he responds to is "Stop Thief" because that is what he has heard people shout at him as long as he can remember. Because of his total innocence and ignorance about what is happening in Warsaw as the Nazis take over, his naive observations are both humorous and heart-wrenching. He thinks that Jews are people who like to clean sidewalks with their beards because that is what he has seen them so. He wants to grow up to be a "jackboot" because he loves to see them march in their shiny black boots. He only very slowly realizes what is happening around him as the Nazi extermination of the Jewish ghetto proceeds. His actions are both comic and heroic as he tries to steal enough to feed his friends and the "children" at the orphanage, many of whom are older than him. I had a hard time deciding between three and four stars. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jerry Spinelliprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steinhöfel, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Smuggling was carried out through holes and cracks in the walls...and through all the hidden places unfamiliar to the conqueror's foreign eyes.  --February 26, 1941 "Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan"
Remembered: Bill Bryzgornia and Masha Bruskina
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I am running.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0439676959, Paperback)

Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli (Maniac McGee, Stargirl) paints a vivid picture of the streets of the Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II, as seen through the eyes of a curious, kind, heartbreakingly naïve orphan with many names. His name is Stopthief when people shout "Stop! Thief!" as he flees with stolen bread. Or it's Jew, "filthy son of Abraham," depending on who's talking to him. Or, maybe he's a Gypsy, because his eyes are black, his skin is dark, and he wears a mysterious yellow stone around his neck. His new friend and protector Uri forces him to take the name Misha Pilsudski and to memorize a made-up story about his Gypsy background so that no one will mistake him for a Jew and kill him. Misha, a very young boy, is slow to understand what's happening around him. When he sees people running, he thinks it's a race. Nazis (Jackboots, as the children call them) marching through the streets appear to him as a delightful parade of magnificent boots. He wants to be a Jackboot! (Uri smacks him for saying this.) He compares bombs to sauerkraut kettles, machine guns to praying mantises, and tanks to "colossal gray long-snouted beetles." The story of Misha and his band of orphans trying to survive on their own would have a deliciously Dickensian quality, if it weren't for the devastation around them--people hurrying to dig trenches to stop Nazi tanks, shops exploding in flames, the wailing of sirens, buzzing airplanes, bombs, and human torture. Spinelli has written a powerfully moving story of survival--readers will love Misha the dreamer and his wonderfully poetic observations of the world around him, his instinct to befriend a Jewish girl and her family, his impulse to steal food for a local orphanage and his friends in the ghetto, and his ability to delight in small things even surrounded by the horror of the Holocaust. A remarkable achievement. (Ages 11 and older) --Karin Snelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Set in Nazi-occupied Poland just before the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Spinelli's first historical novel tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival though the eyes of a young orphan.

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