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I will admit to you right here and now that there is a kind of children's book I tend to avoid, if I can. The Holocaust children's book. I've read plenty of Uri Orlev in my time and I know my Anne Frank, but that doesn't mean I look forward to reading this kind of literature. So when the buzz began ah-hummin' around, "Yellow Star", I wasn't exactly primed to listen. First one librarian began to sing its praises. Then another. Then a whole chorus of on-pitch clever librarians in syncopated rhythm. I couldn't help but hear what they had to say. Apparently the book was so good that it sucked away about 20 minutes of discussion during a committee meeting in which we had seventy-some other books to talk about. Under such praise I had no choice but to locate myself a copy and read it myself. Normally when a book garners buzz of this nature, it has a very hard time living up to it. Jennifer Roy, however, should fear no such feeling. Her book has all the reality, depth, intelligence, and sheer compelling narrative to grab the attention of any child who is required or enticed to read this tale. Worth the hype, to say the least.

This is a true story. It was repeated to author Jennifer Roy by her aunt Sylvia, born Syvia Perlmutter. In 1945 the Lodz ghetto in Poland was liberated from the Germans. "Out of more than a quarter of a million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto. Of those who survived, only twelve were children. I was one of the twelve". Told in verse, the book charts Syvia's life between the ages of four and a half to ten. During that time we see the world through Syvia's eyes. Her family was, like most Jews, rounded up and put into the Lodz ghetto. An attempt to reach "safe" Warsaw never worked, and the family was forced to stay under grueling conditions. As the Nazis started to send off Jews to the concentration camps, including children, we watch as Syvia's father uses extraordinary persuasion and intelligence to hide, protect, and help the children around him. Filled with close calls, luck, and a stifling oppression, this is a gripping narrative that brings the true horror of the time into fast and frightening relief.

Some librarians of my acquaintance got into a high-spirited debate when they tried to figure out why this book was catalogued as fiction rather than as a non-fiction memoir. To my mind, Roy may have had to change some small elements of her tale to make it into a readable work. Since the story is told in first-person verse and is a biography rather than an autobiography, it technically falls into the world of fiction, even if every little word written in it is true.

Maybe it was the fact that this was a real story or maybe it was Roy's first-person narrative, but there is something about this book that feels more true than any other children's Holocaust novel I've ever encountered. Granted, I haven't read as many as I could, but Roy's voice in this book hits a vein of reality, shocking in its immediacy. In cases such as this, I like to point out that depressing books aren't my style. I was the kid in school who avoided, "The Bridge to Terebithia", like the plague since I knew it was renowned for being "sad". But while "Yellow Star" isn't exactly a laugh riot, but there are moments of levity to it. Rather than depressing, the book plays out like a thriller. Will Syvia be found? How can a small child escape or influence her own surroundings for the better? I don't want to label this book an action-novel, but when this puppy moves, it MOVES. And the sheer heroism coupled against pure unvarnished evil is written in such a way that kids everywhere will not only be able to read it but understand it on a truly immediate level. All this makes, "Yellow Star", one of the strongest children's books I've ever had the pleasure to read.

You hand this book to a kid. The kid glances at the cover, glances at the title, then tells you that they don't like books like this. When they say this to you, insist that they read it. Use the old, "It's a verse novel so it's a really quick read", excuse if you have to. Just do whatever you can to get this book into the child's hands. It's an amazing story and an even better read. Strength is in its bones.
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on April 21, 2006
This isn't your typical book about the Holocaust, as it's appropriate for younger children. Written in verse through the perspective of a young girl, it's appropriate for readers of any age. Therefore, it's an excellent tool for introducing this subject to children. I think adult readers will find it poetic and thoughtful, as well.

I highly recommend this book for book groups or for students. The Holocaust theme is painful for many people, but this book provides an opportunity to brooch the subject with poignancy and empathy rather than with fear.
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on April 18, 2006
Yellow Star is a gripping story, gorgeously told, and one you will not be able to forget for a long while after reading. I was riveted from the first page right through to the end. It truly is a book for all ages.
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on April 19, 2007
Review by Talia Rosen

Syvia Perlmutter has been living in the Lodz ghetto in Poland since she was very young. The ghettos are run and watched over by the Nazis. When trains start coming to pick up the Jews and bring them to concentration camp. Syvia's father decides that he will try as hard as he can to keep their family together. The Jews are getting onto the trains, thinking that they are going somewhere to find work, but they are being taken away to concentration camps. The Germans are breaking into people apartments and are ripping children from their families to send them all to the concentration camps as well.

This book is written in poems from the prospective of Syvia. Jennifer Roy got a chance to interview her aunt Syvia and write the story of her life as a child growing being Jewish in World War II. This book is a mix of family, history, and life. If you like books on World War II and would do anything to save your family then you will love this book. The story is deep and the plot is intense. The environment that they had to live in was bone chilling, dreadful, and it is hard imagine what the other people and Syvia's family went through. You won't believe what Syvia was put through to stay alive.
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on May 22, 2006
Jennifer Roy has written an inspiring first person account of her Aunt Syvia who was one of the twelve surviving children in the ghetto in Lodz, Poland during WWII. The lyrical free verse of Yellow Star is immediate and powerful.

Roy's poetic description of the atrocities endured by Syvia and her family; and the courage, resilience and hope of that same family are amazing.

Yellow Star is a treasure for History and English teachers. Roy provides extensive and creative lesson plans that are available on her website,

Yellow Star is an unforgettable must read for children nine and up and adults.
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VINE VOICEon May 25, 2009
The story is inspirational, but the format will not appeal to all readers. If you (or your child) are expecting a traditional novel like I was, then "Yellow Star" may be disappointing.

The book consists of a series of poems put together to tell a story. The book is written using very simple word choices and does not offer many descriptive details. I didn't care for this style and would have preferred a more traditional narrative or even a diary-style for the story.
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on April 29, 2006
From the first page, the main character, Syvia, took me on a journey that I could not interrupt until I got to the last. I was overcome with love and compassion for this little girl and tremendous gratitude to author Jennifer Roy for giving the world this new and moving opportunity to read about this painful time in history.
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on September 17, 2007
It is difficult for me to find words that adequately describe the power of Yellow Star. Told in beautifully flowing free verse, through the eyes of a child, the story of young Syvia Perlmutter leadens the stomach but leaves the reader with a new appreciation for life. Maybe it's something to do with Syvia being the age of my own daughters or knowing that in some parts of the world children are now being taught that the atrocities of the holocaust never occurred, but this story ripped my heart out time and time again from beginning to end. As a Jewish child imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto during World War II, Syvia's innocence and fear are nothing short of gut-wrenching. The most powerful verse for me comes when this nine year old girl finally becomes so weak with illness and emaciation she can no longer move. She says simply, "I feel like a pile of bones/ lying in the corner" (144).

The overall mood of this novel isn't depressing, however. Despite the unspeakable horrors that befell the people of the Lodz getto, and against all odds, one innocent little girl in particular manages to live on. In surroundings that would drive any adult past the breaking point, Syvia finds ways to make it through each day, inventing quiet games with what little she has and spending what must have been the majority of each dreary day alone, in total silence. At some points she is almost happy while at others she barely exists. This is a story of survival, one that is sometimes so shocking it's hard to remember it actually happened. I caught myself hoping time and time again that little Syvia was just a figment of the author's imagination, though even if she had been, the skill with which she was written wouldn't have made her story or circumstances any less terrible.

It is rare for me to feel so strongly about a novel, especially one written for children, but once I started reading Yellow Star, I simply couldn't put it down. With each passage came a flood of feeling: hope for a new day, shock at the behavior of one human being to another, thankfulness for small yet significant victories, disconsolation over the loss of what little remained. Reading well into the early hours of the morning, eyes blurry with tears, I didn't want to know what happened to this sweet little girl and her family-- I needed to. I couldn't close the book until Syvia conquered her private hell. The author gave me no choice but to believe in this unlikely child heroine. In her words, "A hero. Me. The mouse./ Who would have guessed that?" (221-2)

Yellow Star will be on my bookshelf for years to come so that when they have grown mature enough, my own young ones will be able to read and hopefully appreciate this story as much as I did. The faith that kept this little girl and her family alive in the face of such unbelievable adversity should serve as in inspiration to the children we are raising in America today. When a little girl's greatest dream is to have a single doll and to live another day without being executed on the whim of a stranger, the importance of cell phones and fancy sneakers certainly pales in comparison. Read Yellow Star. Buy it for the people you care about. This book will stand the test of time and teaches lessons that cross over the boundaries of race and religion to reach the essence of our human souls. You will not be disappointed in this short but memorable read.
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on January 27, 2007
In 1939, 270,000 Jews were forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto. In 1945, there were only 800 survivors and among them only 12 children. Told in verse, Yellow Star is the story of Syvia Perlmutter, one of the surviving children, who hid in the ghetto with her family. The simple yet descriptive narrative is powerful and beautifully captures the voice and thoughts of a very young girl. The prologue, chapter introductions, author's note, and time line provide readers with the necessary background information to fully understand and appreciate Syvia's story, appropriately placing it into the context of the War. While several books exist about life in the Warsaw Ghetto, Roy provides readers with an unforgettable account of the Lodz Ghetto. Recommend along with My Secret Camera by Mendel Grossman.
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on May 21, 2007
My neighbor, a homeschool mom, originally told me about this book. I checked a copy out from the library and was so moved by it that I purchased a copy for our home library. I have a 10-year -old and this book is perfect for the summer unit on The Holocaust I have planned. Yellow Star, despite the unthinkable horrors it recounts, it is written in a delicate prose that will fill your heart with ache and amazement in this personal account written through the eyes of a child.
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