Sunday, October 2, 2011

Milkweed: A novel

Spinelli, Jerry. (2003). Milkweed: A novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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An orphan child discovers friendship, racism, love, and his identity during the Holocaust.


“Stopthief” is nameless, homeless, and parent-less. But once he meets a respected street kid, Uri, he assumes a new identity and a new life as Misha Pilsudski. Just as Misha begins to get comfortable as his new self, the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust will once again alter his life course. In Milkweed, Newbery award-winning author Jerry Spinelli demonstrates his ability to interpret a horrible event in history and craft an inspiring historical fiction novel for young adults. The unique title sparks the imagination of the reader as they wonder when the significance will be revealed. The book jacket is hauntingly beautiful with a sepia-toned picture of the back of a stone angel statue, which is another symbol that is present throughout the story. The background and experiences of each of the main characters manage to evoke respect, sadness, laughter, and empathy. 
Spinelli masterfully integrates several themes into Milkweed such as identify, loss, friendship, and coming-of-age that are relevant and appropriate for the intended audience. The themes are flawlessly executed throughout the entire book which makes for a story that is strong, emotional, and inspiring at the same time. Some historical details are present but Spinelli relies more on storyline than facts, which keeps young adult readers interested without sounding like a textbook.This book is appropriate for children 11 and up as it is concise and uses short sentences with intermediate vocabulary. Milkweed reminds all readers that history can repeat itself if we do not learn from past events.

  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2004 
  • Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth Selection
  • Book Links Lasting Connections Selection
  • Carolyn W. Field Award from the Pennsylvania Library Association, 2004
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice, 2004 
  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist, 2004 
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age 
  • The Golden Kite Award Winner (Fiction), 2003

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