|Jerry Spinelli: Milkweed|
Alfred A. Knopf (Hardcover), ISBN 0-375-81374-8
Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli often writes about things I wouldn't likely want to read. Newbery winner Maniac Magee tells the story of a homeless boy and racism in a small town. Newbery Honor book Wringer explores peer pressure in the midst of a Pigeon Day shoot. A bully narrates Crash, a story about a tormentor coming of age. Loser introduces a spirited boy who won't be put down by his school's student body. Yet in each case, he writes with a compelling, truth-resonating voice, stories that should not be passed up.
In Milkweed, Spinelli again handles a difficult topic -- the Holocaust. Once more he creates an unusual main character -- a physically and mentally slight, no-name gypsy who inherits the names "Stopthief," "Stupid," "Mischa," "Jew," and "Poppynoodle."
This gypsy takes us on a journey through the Warsaw ghetto in which we observe not only his own tale, but stories of orphans, street urchins, of jackboots, Jews and gypsies, all affected by the spreading evil.
At the story's onset, a homeless boy named Uri takes the young gypsy under his wing. Uri gives him a name (Mischa) and a background so no one will mistake him for a Jew. Soon after, Mischa befriends a Jewish girl named Janina. Uri counsels him to stay away from her, but Mischa follows her to the Warsaw Ghetto. In doing so, he not only sets himself up for betrayal but intertwines his life with those destined to meet with terrible fates.
While Spinelli depicts a world of desperation, struggle, death, survival, betrayal and loss, he manages to maintain a sense of hope. He gives vivid insight into a terrible world where few escaped. For this remarkable effort, he won the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite award.
Lynne Marie Pisano
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