Rummanah Aasi
  When I was young I had asked my dad what makes humans far more superior than animals, his answer was simple and straightforward: Humans have the ability to think and rationalize. We are also given free will. As I become older, I am not entirely convinced if humans are better than animals. Would humans knowingly slaughter one another? Would they hate one another for no apparent reason? There is a simple chorus that Martin Gore from Depeche Mode writes in one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs "People are People":

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
I don't really understand and seems as if none of does, but this vicious cycle of hate continues across our nation and all over the world. These thoughts became much sharper when I finished Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star.

Description: In 1939 Syvia was just four and a half years old. She and her family were forced to live and to survive in a Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland during the Nazi occupation. In 1945, five and half years later, they were freed. This book is about their experiences and an event that we should never forget.

Review:  I have read quite a few adult, young adult, and children's books on the Holocaust, but every time I read them I am continually shocked and horrified. Unlike most Holocaust books that I've read, the focus of this story is on the Jewish ghetto. I did not know that more than two hundred thousand people were imprisoned by the Nazis there.
  Yellow Star is inspired by the author's aunt's personal experiences of growing up in a Jewish ghetto with her family. As the author explains, she originally tried to write it as a memoir and then from a third person narrative, but she couldn't grasp her aunt's voice which is why she chose to write in a novel in verse format. The result is a riveting, heart wrenching, and horrifying read.
  The poems, which can be read individually or as chapters in the book, blend fact and fiction in a simple yet powerful way that helps us make some sense out of this incomprehensible event. We witness the horrors of the war as well as the terrifying experience of living on the edge of being caught through Syvia's innocent eyes. We watch as she begins to understand how horribly things (i.e. people being senselessly shot in the streets, disappearances, and trains going to the concentration camps) are spinning out of control outside of her home and slowly loses her innocence. The author does an incredible job in describing the pain and fear of the five and half years of struggle of survival without going into graphic details. Though the book is bleak, it is her strong spirit and her hopes of a better future that makes the reader feel like things can be okay once again.  
   The readers are given brief, factual, and easy to understand introductions and historical context that links the poems together. We are also given an author note as to what happens to the families once they are freed from the ghetto. There is also a historical timeline included in the book too. Yellow Star is a book that will stay with you for a long time and it is another reminder of why we should never forget this horrible event.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies, English/Poetry

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 to 8.

If you like this book try: Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli for younger readers and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne for older readers.
3 Responses
  1. Jenni Elyse Says:

    This sounds like a very interesting read. I'm very interested in books regarding the Holocaust and WWII.

  2. Nat Says:

    Excellent review and such a good point: we cannot even imagine what that time was like for so many people and can never forget.

  3. Jenny Says:

    Beautiful review Rummanah, this one sounds very difficult to read, but it's nice to know that though she portrays the the pain and fear accurately, we aren't lost in it and are given a little hope to cling to.

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