by Jerry Spinelli

Hardcover, 2003


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Scholastic (2003), Edition: First Edition, 208 pages


Historical Fiction. Young Adult Fiction. Young Adult Literature. HTML:A stunning novel of the Holocaust from Newbery Medalist, Jerry Spinelli. And don't miss the author's highly anticipated new novel, Dead Wednesday! He's a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Filthy son of Abraham. He's a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He's a boy who steals food for himself, and the other orphans. He's a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He's a boy who wants to be a Nazi, with tall, shiny jackboots of his own-until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he's a boy who realizes it's safest of all to be nobody. Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young Holocaust orphan.… (more)

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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Thanks to mamzel for recommending this incredible story! This is the third book I've read by this author, the first two included Wringer, a Newbery trophy award winner, and Maniac Mcgee, a Newbery medal winner. This is by far the most powerful of those I've read.

Set in the historical time frame of
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Nazi occupation of Poland, Misha is a gypsy orphan who, with a band of waifs, roams the streets of Warsaw stealing food and sleeping wherever he can lay his head. He is a simple, naive boy who is called stupid and silly by Uri, another orphan who looks after Misha.

Befriending a young girl named Janina, Misha steals food for her and her family before they are taken to the Warsaw ghetto. Following them into the ghetto via a hole in the wall, Misha foolishly believes he is safe because he is not a Jew, Misha soon learns the horrors that daily grow more and more atrocious.

To say this book is powerful, is an understatement. This very realistic portrayal is one that will haunt me for a long time.

As I read I was reminded of the phrase "What's in a name?" Spinelli masterfully shows the power of this.

Originally thinking he was "Stop Thief", Misha did not know his name until Uri called him Misha. Hearing the phrases of dirty Jew, filthy swine and stinking Zionists, Misha learned that the Nazi's could distance themselves and felt comfortable with ascribing these names to people Misha grew to love. In assuming the last name of Janina's Jewish family, Misha assimilates their values.

The author leaves us with a sense of hope as throughout the book Misha struggles with the moniker ascribed to the concept of Angel and God.

Using the image of a milkweed whose seeds are beautifully, gently scattered, Spellini shows beauty in the midst of terror.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Centered on the life of a young Jewish orphan in Warsaw, beginning in the summer of 1939, this masterpiece of historical fiction is as powerful and heartbreaking as it is humorous and sweet. The book is about past and about identity, from the eyes of a young boy who begins with neither, and with
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only his ability to run. As he grows into a youth who is both a hero and a troublemaker, happening onto friends and make-shift families along the way, readers are exposed to a narrative that cannot be put down or turned from. Simply, this is one of those necessary and beautiful books that will always be read and passed on from one reader to another--at least, I certainly hope it will.

I admit, my only hesitation here is with the ending, from which I wanted more...or even perhaps less. But then, looking back, the book was so striking that I don't know that any ending could have done the full whole justice. Perhaps, really, I just wanted it to keep going.

Strongly recommended.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
In Warsaw, an orphaned Gypsy boy is taken in by a criminal street gang of orphaned Jewish boys just before the German invasion of 1939.
LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Moving if somewhat bizarre Holocaust fiction. It's the story of a young orphan boy in Warsaw during World War II. I really don't know how to describe the book. It's a very emotional read and while Spinelli's heavy use of dramatic irony render the book an effective teaching tool (it's used in the
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Hebrew school where I work) I found it difficult to get through as a reader. Meant for middle-school-aged kids, I don't know that I would recommend it for adults.
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LibraryThing member nm.spring08.dgarcia
Milkweed is a really interesting book I have enjoyed reading it. I really like this book because it has shown me a lot about the past and how others suffer. I also like how the Characters In the book are so honest and smart. I believe that if I would have lived back in that time I would have never
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done what they did. The kids in the book were some boys who were Jewish and completely switched their lives upside down just to survive. They would come up with these stories about them self’s a new background just they wouldn’t be killed. To me it was a sad book because they had to steal, lie they lost their family and were all by themselves. I believe that I learned something from this book and that was that every one should appreciate everything they have. Another thing that I liked about this book was that the boys tried to survive and not be killed even though they committed crimes like stealing they were only doing it because it was necessary.
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LibraryThing member bkoopman
An orphaned Gypsy (Jewish) boy who was only barely "eeking by" during WWII. He speaks in first person about the events of survival, made normal by circumstance, but harrowing by our calm circumstances of today. Vocabulary needs to be taught, and adult guidance given for any readers under sixth
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grade. This book needs to be set in the larger context of history to be appreciated and understood. It is complex; the perspective and voice of this very young narrator coupled with emotionally difficult circumstances must be worked through for a thorough understanding of this plot and the accompanying themes.
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LibraryThing member montymike
A touching story of the holocaust told through the eyes of an 8 year old orphan who is taken in by a group of young thieves just before the war breaks out in 1939. Set in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, this is a tale of kindness and friendship in the face of terrible injustice and suffering, and although
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aimed at a YA audience, I think there is something here for adults too.

If anything, I felt the ending was a little weak, but then how do you wrap up a story on the holocaust?
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LibraryThing member Voxc
I read this book in sixth grade and I thought that it was an excellent book. Even though it's fiction, it told about the life of a youngster living and surviving throughout the Holocaust. I never knew fiction could be so strong and realistic until I read this book.
LibraryThing member alice443
The story of children, mostly boys and mostly orphans, in Nazi occupied Warsaw. At several points the story was so painful I did not think I could bear to continue.
LibraryThing member 7B._.Carmen
This book was actually not interesting in the beginning because the book never really had any events. During in the middle the book started to get more interesting, because the writing had started to become more imaginary and more scareful events started to happened. The end was okay, but read the
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book to find out what happened!
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LibraryThing member candicebairn
Misha is a Gypsy who has never known a home, a friend, or a family. He is in Poland at the start of WW II. He is taken in first by a friend, another homeless boy and then later by a Jewish family.
great historical fiction book.
LibraryThing member jhybe
tells about the struggles during world war 2 from children's perspective. treatment of subject was alright, not one of his best.
LibraryThing member carebear0811
This book is about the Halocaust. The main character is a little boy who is from the streets and does not know a lot about himself. The little boy starts to see some people that he loves taken away. The Halocaust is such a big historical event. I thought the book was okay. I am not head over heels
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for it but I think that is because I had to make myself keep reading it. I am not that sure I ever got real interested in it. I probably would not read this in my classroom because it takes so long to take off, but if I did I would read it along with learning about the Halocaust. One good thing is the children could see if from a different point of view other than what is normally read to them about the Halocaust.
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LibraryThing member jeniferm1314
Spinelli, Jerry. Milkweed. 2003. Knopf, Borzoi Books: New York.
Genre: History, War, Holocaust
Themes: History, war, holocaust, Jackboots, gypsies, ghetto, Jews, Poland
Age/Grade appropriate: 12-14 age group/high school
Awards: ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Carolyn W. Field Award, Golden Kite Award
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for Fiction
Censorship Issues: This book has lots of talk about poor people involved in the war. Some parents may reject their child from reading about this kind of topic while they are in middle school. However, by high school the students should be ready for such a topic.
Plot Summary: There is this little boy with no name. He first calls himself Stopthief because he considered himself a gypsy and all he did was steal to survive. When he ran away with his stolen goods, Stopthief, was the only thing he heard. He made friends with this guy named Uri and he takes him under his wings. He tries to keep him out of trouble to keep him from being killed by the Jackboots. Uri changes his name to Misha Pilsudski. Soon Misha follows the Jews and starts to act like them. His best friend ends up being this little girl named Janina. She tries to act like him and starts stealing with him. All the hard times they went through during the war they all tried to stay together but eventually they are spilt up. By the end of the story Misha found his way to United States and the immigration officer changed his name to Jack. With all the names changes and hard times he still remained happy.
Critique: I think this book fits the bill for young adults. I thought this book was very educational on a first hand level. To hear the stories from Misha and what the Jews had to go through was an eye opening experience. It would be good for student to read this book to realize what actually happened during the holocaust. I enjoyed reading this book.
Curriculum Uses: I could definitely see this book in a classroom. I did not have any profanity. The only thing is the abuse and hard times the Jews had to go through. Since this is history parents should know more or less what it is about. The book talks about the hard times with a respect to young adults, nothing too graphic in this book. It is perfect for a classroom. I could see this in a school library or public library.
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LibraryThing member mmillet
Amazingly powerful story about a young orphan who roams the streets of Warsaw, Poland stealing food and striving to be invisible. He doesn't know much about the world until another orphan, Uri, finds him and gives him the name Misha, a history, and a way to become truly invisible. Misha records
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with unflinching honesty his first experience meeting a Jackboot (Nazi soldiers) and his own naive belief he was safe from them: he's a Gypsy and not a Jew. Above all, Misha is curious - excessively so - and his curiosity leads him into to more than one seriously dangerous situation after another. Sometimes bringing about unexpected happiness, like meeting Janinia and other times that led to profound grief as he is herded into the Warsaw Ghetto along with other Jews.Without Misha's exuberance and curiosity, this book could have been devastatingly sad, but instead half the time I was chuckling over some new scrape he had gotten himself into. Misha witnesses firsthand the cruelty of the Nazis, poignantly illustrated in one scene where Nazi officers bring their girlfriends to the Ghetto to throw food to the prisoners as if they were birds in a park.Spinelli is a masterful writer. This story could be read for its powerful plot lines, for its treatment of families and friendships, or for its rendering of one boy's horrifying experience in a Jewish Ghetto. Much can be gained from either perspective.What stayed with me the most were the descriptions of his adult years - Misha's struggle to fit into society after facing so many horrors in his youth. I found myself going back and rereading multiple passages becuase I couldn't bear to put it down. So very moving.
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LibraryThing member LindaLundeen
Misha is an orphaned boy who struggles to find who he is. His life changes when the Nazis take over, Misha is a gypsy. He befriends a Jewish girl, Janina, who lives in Warsaw Ghetto with her family. Misha steals food and supplies for Janina's family and Dr. Korczak's orphanage. Spinelli's novel is
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universally appealing while focusing on a grim subject that most students find to be interesting. Unlike many historical fiction novels about the Holocaust, Milkweek offers a positive sense of hope.
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LibraryThing member skstiles612
The year is 1939 and the Nazis' have marched into Warsaw, Poland. It is a period when orphans must steal to survive. This is the story of a nameless boy who only knows his name as Stopthief. When he runs into another thief and orphan Uri he is taken under Uri's wing. Uri sees him as senseless. He
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creates a name and a history for him. This is how he becomes Misha. Misah goes everywhere Uri goes. He sees Uri giving food and coal to an orphanage and he does the same. Then he steal a couple of tomatoes from a yard and finds the young girl who lives there. He starts leaving food for her and her family. When they are relocated to a ghetto he finds them and tries to help. Helping gets him into trouble where Uri must once again bail him out. This is a story of home and survival. It is no wonder that it has won so many awards. It should be a must read for every child studying the Holocaust.
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LibraryThing member kjarthur
Powerful and emotional story of survival during tumultuous times of World War II.

Used to teach the Holocaust.
LibraryThing member bloooer
This book really got me hooked
I loved it
LibraryThing member amberdeshotel
This book is written through the eyes of a young orphaned boy who is unsure of his identity during a very tumultuous time in history. The setting of this story is the very dangerous Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Poland in 1939 during the Holocaust. He is even unsure of his name. He thinks his name may be
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“Stoptheif” because he hears someone shout it when he runs off with some stolen bread. He is unsure if he is a Jew, a gypsy and this causes him a lot of uncertainty as he roams the streets. He makes a friend named Uri, who names him as Misha Pilsiudski, who is a gypsy. He makes up a past and has Misha memorize and accept it as the truth because he does not want him to be captured and mistaken for a Jew. He is innocent to the horror and reality that is happening around him during this time. He then meets Janina and her family, who once had money and a house, however they were moved into the ghetto because they were Jewish. He lives off the streets by stealing food and living in a stable with other homeless people. They all hear of a “resettlement” and they are happy to hear this news, however in reality it people being shipped to concentration camps. He winds up following train tracks one day and ends up on a farm where he stays for three years until the war is over. He returns to Warsaw; however it is a different place since the war has ended. He then becomes a street vendor and eventually saves up enough money to buy a ticket to America, where he gets a job and a new identity. His past never leaves him and the past war and the people he left behind are always on his mind.

This book definitely has quite a bit of violence, however that is to be expected of a book that takes place during the Holocaust. The book sometimes goes into detail about beating, torturing, hanging, and death that occurred at this time. Although this theme of hatred and violence is a main theme throughout the book I feel as though it does a good job of depicting how difficult mere survival was at this time in our history. This is a very emotional story and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the protagonist because in the beginning he seemed to lack the “street” smarts needed for survival during this time. At times I almost felt like his innocence would have gotten him into even more trouble during this time because he seemed so ignorant to his surrounding and the horror of what the Nazis were doing.
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LibraryThing member dccab73
This is an awesome book that gives great insight to the Holocaust. It is from the perspective of a young orphaned boy growing up Warsaw, Poland. The story details what it is like for the boy, named Misha on the streets in Warsaw at the start of the war until the end. It was very sad and
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disheartening to read of the life Misha and others endured during this time period, however it was very eye opening and thought provoking. Jerry Spinelli did an exceptional job with this book.
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LibraryThing member male0201
this is a great book. i would read it again and it is about a boy and a girl that become best friends.
LibraryThing member mrsdwilliams
Milkweed takes place in Warsaw during WWII, when the Nazis are rounding up Jews, first herding them into a ghetto and finally deprting them to concentration camps.

An orphan who has survived on the streets for as long as he can remember thinks his name is Stopthief, as that is what people call
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after him when he steals food. When he meets and older boy named Uri, he is enfolded into a group of street children and given a name, Misha, and a Gypsy background.

Misha observes the suffering going on around him, but doesn't understand what is really happening until it is too late to save the people he has come to love. Spinelli has written a beautiful and moving story about the Holocaust.

A must-read.
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LibraryThing member shelf-employed
The voice of Milkweed, Ron Rifkin, should be recognizable to anyone who has listened to Lois Lowry's, The Giver.
Rifkin has the perfect voice for this haunting Holocaust story. He manages the seriousness that the book demands, without the graveness of an adult, for the protagonist in this book is a
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young child, possibly only 8 or so, when the Nazis march into Warsaw.

Thief, Gypsy, Stupid, Jew, Misha, Jack - the protagonist in Milkweed progresses through many names and identities. When the book begins in Warsaw, 1939, the boy identifies only by what he has been called as long as he can remember, "Stop! Thief!" He is small and quick - his greatest and most useful attributes. He has no name, no family and no history - although the listener comes to understand that he is an orphaned Gypsy. In time, he joins a band of orphaned Jewish boys living on the streets.

His tender age, lack of formal education, and status as a non-Jew, enables Misha (for so he becomes named) to offer a unique, insightful and unvarnished perspective on life in the Warsaw ghetto under the control of the Nazis. With childhood innocence he wonders why the other boys are not enthralled with the exciting "jackboot" parade, or why a Jewish man would be washing the sidewalk with his own beard. At first he announces, "I'm glad I am not a Jew," and wishes for the shiny boots of the Nazis. Later, however, he completely identifies with the Jews who have accepted him into their midst, and he chronicles the increasingly horrific conditions of the Warsaw ghetto.

What makes this story so compelling is the fact that Misha, due to his age and limited life experiences, is incapable of passing judgment on the events that unfold. He merely recounts the story and adapts to the downward spiral of human conditions. At first he steals loaves of bread and sausages and all manner of delicious foods. He later is forced to eat rats, spoiled cabbages and garbage. Finally, he scrounges for fat drippings at the bottom of an empty garbage can. Others eat the newspapers that used to shroud the dead. In all instances, he shares his plunder with his "adopted" Jewish family and a house of Jewish orphans - never losing his innate sense of fairness and responsibility to those who have treated him with decency.

He chronicles the increasing callousness with which the Ghetto inhabitants regard the dead - eventually stripping them of their shoes and clothes, if they are lucky enough to have them. Death carts, guards with flame throwers, beatings, murders, deportations to "the ovens," even Nazi soldiers with white-gloved girlfriends on Sunday outings, tossing bread scraps to the desperate Jews and taking photos - Misha reports it all.

He is street-wise and contextually ignorant. He knows only what he has lived and lacks a framework in which he can process the atrocity of the Holocaust. It is this combination that provides the medium for a Holocaust story in terms that a child can understand. A very compelling book that highlights the depravities of human nature side by side with the indomitable human spirit.

About 5 hours on CD or mp3 download.
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LibraryThing member MartyAllen
A Jewish boy survives the Holocaust through his friendships.
This is a historical fiction novel that doesn’t feel like historical fiction, for better or worse. It is not bogged down by dry details of the Holocaust. This makes it slightly more stimulating, but also less informative. One sees the
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brutality the Jews were faced with—there is a man who enjoys beating Jews to death, and at several points the children are able to actually shake off hoards of lice—but none too deep to traumatize young readers, and they will all laugh at the ways the main character manages to escape harm time after time. The story is told as simply being the character’s life, and he seems to cope well enough, at the end, when he is depicted as a grown man, he is so traumatized as to be barely functioning. Considering that this seems to happen in the space of mere pages, one wonders just what changed. Though somewhat dull, as it is just is life, harsh though it may be, the book is fast-paced, depicting an entire life in just over 200 pages. It is a decent way to introduce young readers to the Holocaust, but should be used only as a starting point.
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Physical description

208 p.; 8.3 inches


0439682363 / 9780439682367
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