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Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli


by Jerry Spinelli

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I bought this book because it was sold at a bargain price and because of it was acclaimed as a 'powerful' historical fiction for young adults. I figured it'd be very thought-provoking and informative regarding the lives of Jews during the war. Sure enough, it told of the horrors of the ghettoes, the starvation, and how death was a common scene even among the eyes of children. But since the whole story was told by a kid, who himself does not know much of what is happening around him and as a consequence, uses metonymy to substitute names(such as "Jackboots" for the Nazi soldiers), I thought: would kids know what he's talking about if they haven't learned it at school or been told by their parents about it? Furthermore, it was never clearly explained in the book about what became of the Jews, except for them being sent to the "ovens" by trains. I think this is the crucial part and deserves to be clarified for the young readers in order for them to understand the reality of the war. Maybe I'm being too serious about it? I don't know.

As to the writing, I thought it very easy to read because it was written in clear and precise sentences. The narrator, Misha, often made me laugh at his awkward silliness and sometimes stupidity that led to his many mischievous adventures and resulting punishments. However, I feel that there's this distant tone in his voice. I think it's because he doesn't talk much of his feelings and such. Until the end, to the point where he had grandchildren, he still talked like a third person when narrating his own life and he did not talk of his past with any nostalgia. I wonder why that is... ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
Wow. Great companion to Anne Frank and Number the Stars, this one is told from inside the ghetto. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
The young boy has no name but accepts what anyone wants to call him. He is small enough and fast enough to steal enough food to eat--until the war comes, Nazis invade Warsaw, and food becomes scarce. He is befriended by other street orphans, and makes friends with a young Jewish girl. When her family is herded to the ghetto, he goes with and uses his skills to bring them food.
Stark realism of an awful time. Even the ending, with his new life in America requires him working through his PTSD for years as a street person. ( )
  juniperSun | Apr 16, 2014 |
Although written as a child's book, the content is unusual for the author. Told from a boy's perspective, it covers the WW2 period, from the standpoint of an oft overlooked demographic from that time, the orphans of Warsaw. Misha was orphaned so young that he doesn't even know his real name, how old he is, or anything when we first meet him. he doesn't know if he's a Jew or a Gypsy, but he thinks because he has a yellow stone around his neck that his father gave him, that he's a Gypsy. His memory of a parent is sketchy at best. He steals to eat & survive. he meets up with Uri, a redheaded Jewish boy who knows he's Jewish, but can pass for German. He's the leader of a group of other orphan boys, & he's the one that gives Misha a name, & teaches him about surviving & friendship.

It's a very sad story, fraught with chilling mental images of the horrors of the time, but it's definitely not pretty ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
  cavlibrary | Feb 14, 2014 |
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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)

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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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