“Milkweed” by Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
He’s a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Runt. Happy. Fast. Filthy son of Abraham.
He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi some day, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.
I don’t dabble too much with historical fiction much but I think WWII era historical fiction is my favorite time period to pick up. That’s why I read this even though I knew nothing about it.
Milkweed is an interesting take on the time period. Misha is a different character. He’s an orphan so he doesn’t know who he is and obviously his parents are long gone. He just kind of rolls with the fact that he’s Jewish… or a Gypsy because that’s what people tell him. He doesn’t care. He’s proud (?) of his given heritage. Because he doesn’t have his parents, he has no idea what’s going on in the world.
In the beginning, he really admires the Jackboots (Nazis). He even wants to be one. Eventually he and his friends are shipped off to the Jewish ghetto where they are starved and mistreated. He still doesn’t see what’s wrong. The story never explicitly states his age but I hated the fact that Misha was SO clueless. Even young children have some notion of right and wrong. I know a boy would not have power to do anything about his situation but he could get mad or at least acknowledge the fact that people are being horribly mistreated.
His obliviousness just really rubbed me wrong. I just couldn’t connect with him. I always hate crooks in fiction but I didn’t mind his stealing too much because it was used for good. Because I was unable to really connect with him, I felt the story drug on for quite a while.
The bottom line? Interesting take on the time period but not really for me.