Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

This is the true story of a Holocaust survivor.

From the inside jacket:
In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland, and moved the Jewish population into a small part of the city called a ghetto.  As the war progressed, 270,000 people were forced to settle in the ghetto under impossible conditions.  At the end of the war, there were about 800 survivors.  Of those who survived, only twelve were children.  This is the story of one of the twelve.

This story was amazing.  I knew it was a true story, so I knew Syvia survived, but I was amazed again and again at how she survived.  Her father played a huge part in her survival.  He impressed me with his quick thinking, firm loyalty to his family, levelheadedness, and ability to outsmart the Nazis.  He is a beautiful (real!) character, and he is reason enough to read this book. 

I won't give away who lives and who'll have to read it to find out!  Jennifer Roy's Author's Note at the end of the novel gives a detailed account of what happened to the story's main characters.  The story is especially sweet because Jennifer Roy is the niece of Syvia, so she knows many of the people she wrote about.  Jennifer Roy also includes a helpful WWII timeline at the end of the novel.

Jennifer Roy did a great job on this novel.  I am very impressed, and I am glad that she captured so well the history of her aunt and the survivors of the Lodz ghetto.  You will be amazed.

Obvious but fair warning: you will also be sad.  Middle schoolers can handle it, but they should debrief with a loving caring adult after reading it.  The Holocaust is a dark, evil spot in history, and younger readers should have someone help them understand it.  I guess it comes down to when you think your child is ready for an introduction to the Holocaust. 

P.S. As for the religious aspect, the book is obviously about Jews, but for the most part, religion is not included in Syvia's story.  The Jews pray aloud when the Germans are bombing the ghetto, and the Author's Note says that every night Syvia prays the Jewish prayer for the dead.  There are no other references to religious Jewish practices.

Syvia asks questions from a child's perspective like, "Why do they hate us because we're Jews?" and "Is my doll a Jew too?"  Her older sister tells Syvia that the Germans hate them because "they think we killed their God."  Syvia gets concerned that God is dead, and her sister calms her down by saying, "not our God, their God.  God is still alive."  That is the extent of any kind of theology in the book. Sorry, those are not direct quotes; I can't find the page in the book!


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