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He has no name, no home, no family and no background. He steals food, sleeps in the street and survives by not getting caught. He is called a Jew, a filthy son of Abraham, a Gypsy, and Stop Thief. He sleeps in a cellar with a band of boys who are just like him, who steal to stay alive and do their best to go unnoticed by the Jackboots.

The Jackboots control Warsaw, Poland in 1939. They have power, uniforms that shine, and guns. It is not safe to be a Jew, a Gypsy or a homeless orphan. The best thing to be is invisible.

He learns his name is Misha and that he was a Gypsy until the day his family was bombed by the Jackboots, otherwise known as the Nazis. Uri, the leader of the street gang, tells him this. It is Uri who guides Misha through life on the streets, but when Misha sees a girl he knows herded into the Warsaw ghetto with her family, he knows he must follow her.

MILKWEED is a standout among Holocaust literature for children, deceptively simple and completely heartbreaking. Jerry Spinelli is a master of writing complex, emotional stories in new voices --- and this novel is no exception. The perspective of a young, impetuous smuggler is a fresh take on a tale that always bears retelling. This is a book that should not only be discussed, but experienced as well.

Reviewed by Carlie Kraft Webber on September 9, 2003

by Jerry Spinelli

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2003
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375813748
  • ISBN-13: 9780375813740