Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

I gave this historical fiction book a rating of four out of five. An orphan boy living in Warsaw, Poland during World War II must try to survive the mass killings of Nazi soldiers. The boy does not remember anything about his past, so he adopts whatever names and life histories that are given to him by others. At different times, he's known as "Stop thief", a gypsy named Misha, and the son of a Jewish family. The boy's life is seemingly full of fun and games as he steals food, causes mischief with other street orphans, and taunts the German soldiers. He's excited about the chance to see Himmler, one of Hitler's leading officers, and even runs up to his car during a "parade". However, his feelings change when all of the Jews are herded up and imprisoned in a "ghetto". He sees people starve to death and others hung for stealing food. Some of his own friends die due to the abuse of the Germans. The boy's life is saved a couple of times by a man named Uri, although Uri's true identity isn't revealed until later in the book.

This book is a great resource for anyone interested in reading about The Holocaust. I find the boy's character very entertaining as he lives his life, season to season. Some readers may not enjoy his randomness; he's very impulsive. He's also very naive and has no idea of the war that surrounds him and the consequences of his actions. The world is literal to him which creates some humorous and dangerous situations. He thinks lice falling from his head like snow is hilarious, but he doesn't see a problem teasing the most feared guard in the ghetto. He lives his life, day to day, which is all he can do when he's surrounded by the death and destruction of World War II.

Lexile level from lexile.com 510

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