Thursday, October 19, 2006
Yellow Star - Jennifer Roy
I’ve been meaning review this book for awhile, but don’t think for a moment that I put off reviewing it because it’s not great. This book was spectacular.
The novel is based on the true story of Jennifer Roy’s aunt Syvia who was one of twelve children who survived the Holocaust in the Lodz Ghetto. It beings in 1939 with 4 ½ year-old Syvia describing the yellow star sewn onto her coat. It follows Syvia and her family as they are forced into the Lodz Ghetto and continues to describe their life until the end of WWII.
Holocaust books for middle grades can be very difficult because they shouldn’t hide the truth, but they shouldn’t be overly graphic and gruesome. Yellow Star walks the fine line perfectly because it’s told from the point of view of a young girl who didn’t always understand the truth and her parents and older sister protected her as much as they could. To support Syvia’s story and prevent any confusion, her story is interspersed with a few brief historical descriptions of the war and the novel contains a detailed timeline at the back of the book.
There are plenty of sad moments, but a few joyful moments too. Since the book begins with the statement that Syvia is one of the children who survived, the readers are spared some anxiety.
Yellow Star is also a good example of one of the few books with a story that is strengthened thru being told in verse. The simplicity of prose matches the descriptions young Syvia lends credit to her perspective as a child.
At the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, Jennifer Roy said her generation was told to “always remember”, but they weren’t told what to remember. In the foreword she said he father was also a Holocaust survivor, but he never talked about it and when he died, his history was lost. I’m certainly glad she was able to preserve Syvia’s experience before it grew too late. Her beautiful story will help children relate to an event that seems so inexplicable to us all.