Sara's Reviews > Yellow Star

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy
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Nov 15, 09

bookshelves: holocaust-literature, poetry
Read in November, 2009

** spoiler alert **

Summary and Analysis:

Yellow Star is a novel in verse that would be appropriate for middle school readers. Yellow Star is both a book of poetry as well as a biographical account of a young girl's experiences during the Holocaust. Specifically, the author's aunt Syvia (now called Sylvia),is a survivor of the Lodz ghetto in Poland. In the beginning, there were 270,000 Jewish people living in the Lodz ghetto. When the ghetto was liberated by the Soviets, there were only 800 people left. Among the 800 people were 12 children, who had remained hidden when the Nazis came to send the children to Chelmno concentration camp, or later, Aushwitz concentration camp. The author's aunt Syvia was one of the 12 children that survived.

Yellow Star begins when Syvia is about 5 years old. Her family is not rich but they are "comfortable". Around this time, all Jewish people in Poland are forced to wear the yellow star of David on their clothing. Soon after, they are moved into the Lodz ghetto. At first, Syvia does not mind it, although she doesn't understand why they had to leave their home. Syvia is perfectly happy playing with her two best friends. She does miss starting school though, which doesn't affect her as much as it affects Dora, her older sister.

Eventually, Syvia's friends disappear and she is very lonely - as she is home alone all day while her mother, father, and sister work. Food becomes harder and harder to find and the combination of cold weather and illness kills many people. Things become so much worse for Syvia when the Nazis order the deportation of many families. They are told they will be moved to the east- where there are jobs and better living conditions. However, Syvia's father's "gut" tells him this is not so. Although Syvia's family is not selected for deportation - she is not out of danger. Soon enough, the Nazis come for all of the children. Some families give their children up willingly, believing the Nazi lies, but once again, Syvia's father knows better. He hides her in the cemetery for several nights and she is once again safe.

Finally, years later, the Nazis begin to liquidate the ghetto. They are losing the war and so they want to send all Jewish people into Germany to Auschwitz concentration camp. Only 800 Jews are allowed to stay behind, in order to clean up the ghetto and salvage furniture, etc for Nazi use. Syvia's father manages to get them into the working group and so they stay behind in the ghetto. Soon enough, the ghetto begins to be bombed by the advancing Soviet soldiers. In one of the most tense moments of the book, all of the Jewish people left in Lodz gather together in a large courtyard, thinking they would be safer from the bombing there than in buildings. The leader of the Soviet bombers, also Jewish, sees the yellow stars on their clothing from up in the air and orders the air raid to stop. This is how the remaining Jews of Lodz are liberated.

I listed to this book on CD and I read portions of it, as well. I must say that I enjoyed listening to it more than reading it because the voice actor was very talented. This helped me because I could hear the names, etc being pronounced correctly.

I liked the fact that Yellow Star is told in verse, as well. Not only was this a nice change from reading traditional novels about this subject matter, it helped make the narration more authentic. Syvia lives in the Lodz ghetto from the time she was 5 until the time she was 10. The poetry in this book helps make the first person narration more authentic - as the short lines come off as being very childlike.

This book also had some useful tools within it as well. There is a detailed timeline in the back of the book, as well as a prologue and epilogue that talks about the author's relationship with her aunt Syvia. In between sections of this book, there is some historical background written in prose that helps the reader understand the context - as the protagonist is too young to be able to give that information and some of it was information that the people in the ghetto didn't know at the time, anyway. For example, that Auschwitz was the destination of the last trains out of Lodz.
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