Jerry Spinelli is probably one of the best writers of books for middle school kids. Stargirl and Maniac Magee were two of my favorite books when I was younger and they still are considered two of my all time favorites. Now, Milkweed has just joined that list.
Milkweed is the story of a boy with several different names: Stopthief, stupid, runt, Jew, filthy son of Abraham, Misha. He doesn’t know who his parents are or where he came from, only that he is a Gypsy at the worst time in history it is to be a Gypsy. It’s World War II and the Nazi’s have invaded Poland. The Jackboots are people to be feared, but Misha wants nothing more than to be one of them. His mind is quickly changed when him and his orphan friends are rounded up with the other Jews of Warsaw and moved into the ghetto. But Misha is not put down by this and continues to see what other people are failing to see every day: hope.
Jerry Spinelli has done an amazing job on recreating a scene of horror, but in a way that a child would be able to understand. Milkweed is a story of hope, friendship, love, and surviving the worst. The reader will be able to grow up with Misha over the years of living in Nazi run Poland and see how his life is transformed. The only problem I actually had with the book was I thought the ending felt very rushed. While I do realize the main focus of the book is on the events of Misha’s life living in Warsaw, I feel like taking it a bit slower at the end would’ve helped bring the story to a successful close.
Although I’m not Jewish I feel a very strong connection to the Holocaust. I’ve read many fiction and nonfiction books on it and took a Holocaust and Genocide class in college in order to understand the events more. I think that Milkweed, along with other fiction and nonfiction books based on the Holocaust, should be required reading in a school setting. It’s an important part of history that should not ever be forgotten.