JERRY SPINELLI is the author of many novels for young readers, including The Warden's Daughter; Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Milkweed; Crash; Wringer; and Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; along with Knots in My Yo-Yo String, the autobiography of his childhood. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, poet and author Eileen Spinelli.
Gr 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.
For this WWII tale set in Warsaw, Spinelli (Wringer) invents a narrator akin to Roberto Benigni's character in Life Is Beautiful. The narrator intermittently indicates that he has some distance from the events, but his perspective affords him no insight, so readers may be as confounded as he. As the novel opens, Uri, a larger boy, chases down the narrator and pries away the loaf of bread he has pinched: " `I'm Uri... What's your name?'... `Stopthief.' " After Uri realizes that the boy truly does not know his own name, Uri gives him one-Misha Pilsudski-as well as a past (befitting the boy's "Gypsy" appearance). Simple-minded Misha admires the Nazis, whom the boys call "Jackboots" ("They were magnificent. There were men attached to them, but it was as if the boots were wearing the men.... A thousand of them swinging up as one, falling like the footstep of a single, thousand-footed giant"). Misha comes off as a clown, and for children unfamiliar with the occupation and its horrors, the juxtaposition of events and Misha's detached relating of them may be baffling (Nazis force Jews to wash the street with their beards, and hang one of Misha's friends from a street lamp). At times, he seems self-aware ("I had no sense. If I had had sense, I would know what all the other children knew: the best defense... was invisibility"), yet these moments are aberrations; he never learns from his experience, and a postlude does little to bring either his perspective or the era into focus. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"An extremely powerful book. Readers will be gripped by this story
of a young orphan in Warsaw." -- Boston Herald
"Jerry Spinelli has fashioned a novel of beauty out of the ugliness of the Holocaust. It is a superb book, one of the best you will read." -- BookPage
"Stunning." -- Kirkus Reviews, Starred "Spinelli creates a masterful achievement, a war story to be put alongside J. G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun and a literary accompaniement to Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful." -- VOYA "An unforgettable novel."--Library Media Connection, Starred "Part survival adventure, part Holocaust history, [this] novel tells the story through the eyes of a Polish orphan on the run from the Nazis."--Booklist, Starred review "This is a superb addition to the canon of young adult literature."--Jewish Book World "Unforgettable. . . a powerful story about one small boy's courage during a horrifying period of history. A heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story." -- The Midwest Book Review