Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli is the incredible story of an orphaned boy experiencing the horrors of Warsaw during World War II. In a time where your heritage decided whether you lived or died, the young orphan doesn't know if he is a gypsy or jew, and the only names he has are those given to him on the street, mainly Stopthief (after "Stop! Thief!" called after him on the streets). He befriends a fellow orphan, Uri, who forces him to become Misha Pilsudski. Misha soon befriends Janina Milgrom and becomes inseparable from her. When the Milgrom family is forced to move to the ghetto, innocent Misha tags along. While in the ghetto, he is small enough to sneak out and smuggle back food. However, when the trains come to relocate the ghetto’s residents Misha realizes the ‘relocation’ claims are false and must make important decisions about life and death.
Jerry Spinelli’s Milkweed is a touching take on a familiar and tragic tale. The horrors of the Holocaust are brought to new and terrifying life through the eyes of a child who sees people running and thinks it’s a race, and sees Nazi’s marching and envies their shiny boots. Throughout the story reader understands the horrors unfolding around him as young Misha does not, at least not till the end when the ghettos are cleared. At the end both the reader and Misha know the horribly tragic reality of the holocaust and the fate of those in the ghetto. Milkweed is a powerful and moving story about survival, innocence, heartbreak and hope, a must read.
ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2004
Carolyn W. Field Award, 2004
Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List Winner, 2004
Golden Kite Award for Fiction, 2004
Spinelli, Jerry. Milkweed. New York: Knopf, 2003
Book Cover Credit: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/jerry-spinelli/milkweed.htm