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24 August 2007 @ 10:23 pm
Jerry Spinelli's MILKWEED (4.5 stars)  
Call him whatever you'd like. Everyone else does.

Stopthief. Jew. Gypsy. Fast. Happy. Runt. Filthy son of Abraham. Misha Pilsudski is the name that Uri, the leader of the street orphans, finally gives him, along with a made-up story about his past and his family history. It's the name that sticks. For a while.

This orphan boy from Warsaw, U.S.S.R., figures if someone calls him a name, it just might mean that it's true. Take "Fast," a name Uri calls him. If it wasn't true about him, how else would he explain how good he is at stealing bread from women walking on the street? Bread which he faithfully shares half with Doctor Korczak's orphans at the group home. He wouldn't be able to outrun the venders, the police, or the Jackboots. That's his name for the Nazi soldiers that can be seen marching around town. Someday, he'd like to be a Jackboot.

Then a Jewish girl named Janina from a poor neighborhood befriends him. With Janina, Misha feels he has a real family, a place he can belong. When families all over the city, Jewish families at first, start getting relocated into the walled-off ghettos, Misha moves in with her. Spinelli's story sings the despair of the ghettos with a raw and tragic melody of characters. Outside the ghetto walls they call Heaven. Food is rotten and scarce. New bodies lie covered in the streets each day. And angels are everywhere, if you know how to look.

They call him Stopthief. Catch him if you can.

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mike|tedlost_child2 on August 26th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
Thumbs up for reading another Spinelli. I'm glad you liked it :D
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on August 29th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was about time. I saw this book of his sitting on the shelf at the Scholastic book fair and I bought it. $5 for a hardcover isn't a bad deal. Especially for a book like this.