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.
Set in the historical time frame of
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.
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.
If anything, I felt the ending was a little weak, but then how do you wrap up a story on the holocaust?
great historical fiction book.
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
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.
Used to teach the Holocaust.
I loved it
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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