Ruhama's Reviews > Milkweed

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
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Jan 21, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: teen
Read in February, 2004

Note: I listened to this on tape, read by Ron Rifkin (who read The Giver by Lowry) and he did a marvelous job of reading.

Misha Pilsudski doesn't really have a name--his friend and "guardian" Uri gave him a name and story so he would have something to tell people when asked. He lives in Warsaw in 1938, is a Gypsy, and his estimated age is about seven or eight. Misha is going through life without any cares, other than he feels the need to be quick and a thief, and doesn't realize the seriousness of the Nazis (called Jackboots in this story--a source of fascination for Misha) until after living in the Ghetto for a while. Misha eventually escapes Warsaw and survives the war, always wondering what happened to his "family" in the Ghetto when the trains came.

I didn't like the beginning of this book, and it took a couple of tries to get into it. But once I got to know Misha, Uri and some of the other characters in the story, I was hooked. Spinelli has crafted an amazing story about the Jews (and Gypsies and cripples and crazies) in Poland, starting in the late 1930s. I enjoyed the fresh perspective, the age of the character (and the fact it's a boy) and the specificities of the Nazi cleansing. Spinelli does not sugar coat his story, hence I'll be putting this in the Young Adult section (even though the main character is lower elementary), but Spinelli isn't overly brutal with his language or images. The reader can feel a part of the story and will enjoy watching Misha grow and change. The book is not depressing, but it is disturbing in places.
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