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Milkweed Hardcover – September 9, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 257 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli (Maniac McGee, Stargirl) paints a vivid picture of the streets of the Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II, as seen through the eyes of a curious, kind, heartbreakingly naïve orphan with many names. His name is Stopthief when people shout "Stop! Thief!" as he flees with stolen bread. Or it's Jew, "filthy son of Abraham," depending on who's talking to him. Or, maybe he's a Gypsy, because his eyes are black, his skin is dark, and he wears a mysterious yellow stone around his neck. His new friend and protector Uri forces him to take the name Misha Pilsudski and to memorize a made-up story about his Gypsy background so that no one will mistake him for a Jew and kill him. Misha, a very young boy, is slow to understand what's happening around him. When he sees people running, he thinks it's a race. Nazis (Jackboots, as the children call them) marching through the streets appear to him as a delightful parade of magnificent boots. He wants to be a Jackboot! (Uri smacks him for saying this.) He compares bombs to sauerkraut kettles, machine guns to praying mantises, and tanks to "colossal gray long-snouted beetles." The story of Misha and his band of orphans trying to survive on their own would have a deliciously Dickensian quality, if it weren't for the devastation around them--people hurrying to dig trenches to stop Nazi tanks, shops exploding in flames, the wailing of sirens, buzzing airplanes, bombs, and human torture. Spinelli has written a powerfully moving story of survival--readers will love Misha the dreamer and his wonderfully poetic observations of the world around him, his instinct to befriend a Jewish girl and her family, his impulse to steal food for a local orphanage and his friends in the ghetto, and his ability to delight in small things even surrounded by the horror of the Holocaust. A remarkable achievement. (Ages 11 and older) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up-In Warsaw in 1939, a boy wanders the streets and survives by stealing what food he can. He knows nothing of his background: Is he a Jew? A Gypsy? Was he ever called something other than Stopthief? Befriended by a band of orphaned Jewish boys, he begins to share their sleeping quarters. He understands very little of what is happening. When the Nazi "Jackboots" march into the town, he greets them happily, admires their shiny boots and tanks, and hopes he can join their ranks someday. He eventually adopts a name, Misha, and a family, that of his friend Janina Milgrom, a girl he meets while stealing food in her comfortable neighborhood. When the Milgroms are forced to move into the newly created ghetto, Misha cheerfully accompanies them. There, he is one of the few small enough to slip through holes in the wall to smuggle in food. By the time trains come to take the ghetto's residents away, Misha realizes what many adults do not-that the passengers won't be going to the resettlement villages at the journey's end. Reading this unusual, fresh view of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of a child who struggles to understand the world around him is like viewing a poignant collage of Misha's impressions. He shares certain qualities with Spinelli's Maniac Magee, especially his intense loyalty to those he cares about and his hopeful, resilient spirit. This historical novel can be appreciated both by readers with previous knowledge of the Holocaust and by those who share Misha's innocence and will discover the horrors of this period in history along with him.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 510L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375813748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375813740
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (257 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,048,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a story from the Holocaust. Spinelli has been able to do something quite remarkable in this novel. We read the book with our own knowledge of the events of the Nazi invasion yet we see the events through the eyes of a young boy who really does not comprehend what is happening to his country.

The only name he knows to call himself is Stopthief because he survives by stealing. He is a child utterly and totally alone. He is given the name Misha by another boy who befriends and protects him. Misha's family becomes a group of homeless orphan boys scratching out a life on the streets of Warsaw.

Misha is totally innocent, ignorant and naive so he only lives in the present. As we read of the Nazi invasion we know the horrors ahead. Misha, however, sees the "Jackboots" as something wonderful; he perceives their mocking salutes as a mark of respect. Their parade entering the city is a marvel to him though events he witnesses finally lead him to understand that being a Jew is dangerous. He is living with his friends in the the Warsaw ghetto. Behind the walls, his kind heart and small size allow him to sneak out and smuggle food back in for his friends. The reader fears for Misha though he feels no fear for himself.

We ache for the child and adult searching for home and kinship.
Spinelli allows the reader to hear, see and smell the insanity of the Holocaust. This is a book everyone should read. This story is timely, important and compelling.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't really read holocaust books because they are just too sad, but I decided to give this one ago because of the great reviews I'd heard.

It's about a young boy who doesn't know his own age and assumes that his name is "Stopthief". You follow him as he tells the story of the Holocaust through his own innocent eyes and you see the changes that he and the people he love go through. The majority of the book is not set in the concentration camps, but in the ghetto and the time before that, as the persecution began.

It is written in a very simple style which gives a voice to Misha (previously "Stopthief") as he realizes and doesn't realize what is happening around him.

The simple style means that horrible events can happen mostly without sentiment but very clearly and matter of factly. Misha himself is not particularly upset by dead bodies being slung onto carts, although the reader might be, but because of Misha's voice and the short chapters your attention is pulled elsewhere before the meaning really has a chance to sink in. I think this really helped show the innocence of the young boy and also make the book a lot easier to read and to take. I wouldn't recommend it to children much under 11 though because some parts, such as a man who particularly likes suffocating kids, are a bit gruesome and nasty for younger readers.

Although I really didn't expect to actually enjoy a book about the Holocaust, Milkweed is completely compelling and is worth reading just for the loving little boy with a changeable name who can't keep still.

It maybe sad in parts but I think it's worth it.
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A Kid's Review on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hi, I am in 7th grade, and Milkweed was one of the best books I have ever read! Misha, who is the main character of the book, befriends another boy named Uri, and together they survive in the streets of Warsaw, Poland. Their life would have been fine, but the Holocaust had begun and Misha was forced into a ghetto, where he was crowded together with other orphans, Jews, and gypsies. While in the ghetto many people starved and died. Misha and his friends go through many hardships and injustices, but in the end Misha survives the Holocaust, and at an old age finally finds a true home.
I thought this book was really good, although very sad, and I felt the ending was a little rushed, but all in all I thought that it was a well- written book, and I enjoyed it a great deal. Jerry Spinelli put in enough gruesome, and saddening details about the Holocaust to make you feel sad, but unlike some other Holocaust books they do not make you feel nauseous and queasy. It is definitely the type of book you can't put down, this is probably because of the main character, Misha. Misha is not a very smart boy, and he makes you want to scream in his ear and tell him what to do. As Misha learns about the world around him, you, the reader, also learn about the Holocaust and its cruelties. Because you only learn what Misha learns, you sometimes feel a little held back, but this only makes you want to keep reading even more. Jerry Spinelli also writes the book in an interesting format. He has lots of short, and strange- sized sentences. These, I believe, help give you the real image and feel of the book, although sometimes they do seem a little out of place. Milkweed was a fantastic book, and I recommend it to people of all ages!
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A Kid's Review on March 15, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
He had been called many things - Jew, stopthief, happy, runt, fast, filthy son of Abraham. He lived on the streets and steals food to survive. He believes in bread, mothers, and angels. He wanted to be a Nazi someday , with tall jackboots and an eagle cap - that is, until the day that suddenly made him change his mind. When the trains came to empty the ghetto, he's a boy who realized it is safest of all to be a nobody.

A young, swift orphan arrived on the streets of Warsaw with no recollection of his past - not so much as his name. He began living with another orphan in an abandoned barbershop, and together they stole everything they needed. The other orphan, who went by the name Uri, named the nameless child by the name of Misha Pilsudski. Misha and Uri had a decent life - they were never hungry, they hung out with other orphan folk, and Misha even had a rich friend (Janina) - until the day the jackboots came. The men in "jackboots" were actually Nazis, and they came to raid Warsaw. Soon the town was in shambles and they began to round up all the Jews to send to the ghetto. Misha claimed he was a Gypsy (although he had no idea whatsoever what he was), but went to the ghetto anyway because he thought it looked fun. He visited Janina's family many times while the wall was in the process of being built, because he could just step over it. However, once the wall was finished, Uri stayed out while Misha lived there full time. In the ghetto, the conditions rapidly degraded and soon, everyone was starving. Misha found a two-brick hole in the wall he could fit through, so every night he slipped through this miniature escape route and get food for Janina and her family. This system worked pretty well, and soon Janina would even come with him on his adventures.
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