Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

MilkweedJust when I was convinced that I couldn’t be surprised or moved by yet another emotionally wrenching Holocaust story, veteran author Spinelli proved me wrong. Misha is an orphan in the Warsaw ghetto who can’t remember his real name, who his parents were, or where he was born. With his coloring, he could be a Jew or a Gypsy, neither of which is safe in Hitler’s Europe. Having never known any other life than that of a hungry beggar and a thief, Misha takes pleasure in small things, like a warm mouthful of bread, or the polished boots of the Nazi soldiers. He is shockingly naive, not recognizing the danger that surrounds him until it almost too late. It is only when most of his gang of orphan friends have been killed or deported that he begins to see how amazing it is that he has survived this long, and plans his own escape from the ghetto. There are images in this book that will haunt me forever, mostly the picture Spinelli paints of a group of Nazi soldiers and their girlfriends, who come to the ghetto in their rich clothes and full bellies to throw bread to the starving Jewish children as if they were hungry birds, and laugh as they fight over it. Gorgeous writing, but oh so sad. Keep some Kleenex handy.

10 thoughts on “Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

  1. “Milkweed” was powerful eough however, its ending was rather weak. Spinelli takes the time to tell us how Misha grows up but this only dilutes the books perpose. I was very disapointed with the ending which could have been really wonderful.

  2. Well, the ending was short, but I think Spinelli did give a good sense of how confused and disturbed Misha was for the rest of his life after his brutal childhood. There was also a sense of closure when his daughter came back for him–he had come full circle.

  3. think think the book should have ended with him walking off down the train tracks, we didn’t need anything else. i really didn’t care how he grew up and the ending would have been more powerful if we never knew.

  4. Wow,this book was very graphic. As you read Milkweed you can picture all that was happening in poland of 1939. This book is packed with all sorts of adventures good and bad. this book should be read by 8th graders and higher.
    this book would now be good for you if you know nothing about World War 2.

  5. I’m glad you were moved by it, Bonnie. It’s meant to be disturbing and to make you think!

  6. Im in 7th grade and ive recently read this book. I loved the characters as if i really knew them.I was very upset in the ending because hardly any of the characters Misha grew up with survived, and if any did they never saw him again… 🙁

  7. This was a book that made you think about how lucky we are. It is hard to believe that some people lived liked that. I thought i was going to not like the book but i ended up really enjoying it. Very touching!

  8. I definately agree that the ending was bad. It wasn’t what I had envisioned. The rest of the book was great though. I loved how Spinelli the the young point of view of a little boy. It really makes me think of how confusing and terrifying it must’ve been for a child growing up during the Holocaust. But then, I think that it must have been the only life they knew.

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