Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. Marshall Cavendish Publishing, 2006.
Grade Level: 6-8
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5277-5, $16.95
Blanket Permission to Reproduce Book Jackets:
Preferred wording: “Used by Permission of the publisher.”
Synopsis: Syvia Perlmutter, a young Jewish girl, her older sister Dora, and their parents are forced into the Lodz, Poland ghetto in 1939, along with 270,000 other Jews. Syvia and her family members experience starvation, beatings, and threat of execution during the years in the ghetto. Young Syvia experiences total boredom, fear, and, extreme lonliness. This book is told in free verse from young Syvia’s point of view. While over a quarter-million Jews entered the ghetto, as stated earlier, only 800 were left alive when liberation came in 1945. Twelve of them were children. Jennifer Roy's aunt Syvia was one of those children.
Jennifer Roy, the author and niece of the hero/main character, does a wonderful job of blending the fiction-novel format with the memoir format in this moving book. She interviewed the elderly Syvia numerous times, of course, and then, filled in any memory gaps with plausible fictional details. The result is a compelling free verse novel set in Lodz, Poland from the beginning of World War II to its end. We the reader hold our breath as Syvia barely escapes going to the concentration camp many times. We experience the total boredom and loneliness with Syvia. We share the fear and hunger of all the brave Jews that we get to know in the book. Because this book is written in first-person narrative, we observe the maturity in language and thought of Syvia from age 4 to age 10. The reader will be surprised and relieved along the way.
This book would make a wonderful addition to a middle school Holocaust unit.
Themes: Jews – Persecutions – Poland – Lodz; Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) – Poland; Jews- Poland; Family life – Poland; Poland – History – Occupation, 1939-1945
Author information: Jennifer Roy is the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults. She is a former Gifted and Talented teacher. She holds a BS in Psychology and a MA in Elementary Education.
Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)
- How did the adults in the ghetto help the 12 remaining children when the kids’ cellar location was discovered? What action did they take? Then what did the Nazis do? Did it surprise you that all the Jewish adults participated, even those who had lost their own children?
- Read pgs. 90 and 91 again. What games and mind-entertainment could you create in that same situation?
- Describe the physical traits of the Russian liberator on p.213. How does he travel? What does he do when he sees the scene of the remaining Jews? What does the word “liberator” mean?
Read the excerpt from “Life in the Warsaw Ghetto” by Emanuel Ringelblum. http://fcit.usf.edu/Holocaust/resource/document/DocRing1.htm . Did this description, including the amount of food brought into the ghetto remind you of the Perlmutter family in this book? What other connections can you make?
Look at the photo galleries of the Warsaw ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising at the following website. http://fcit.usf.edu/Holocaust/resource/gallery/gallery1.htm Now draw your own mental pictures from scenes from this book onto paper. Draw a black and white sketch of Syvia playing with her dust “dolls.” Draw other scenes in addition to this. Standard 5 Benchmark 3
This book is filled with figurative language examples. Find these:
Simile – comparison between two things using “like” or “as.”
Reading Standard 1, Benchmark 3, Indicator 5
Drive like crazies (27)
No best friend like a doll (48)
Crushing people like cattle (56)
Resistance fighters like ant tunneling through ground (96)
Living is like sleepwalking (96)
Feel like a pile of bones (144)
Men like a pack of dogs running from the dogcatcher (152)
Pear cores like small skeletons (175)
Dragged like a sack of potatoes (175)
Hands feel like ice (187)
Scatter like loose chickens (196)
Stand like statues in the snow(197)
Metaphor – compares two thing without “like” or “as.”
Fingers are icy sticks (6)
Dark apartments are boxes of grief and fear (32)
Summons papers are “wedding invitations” (57)
I am a bear in a cave (62)
Hole in ground is bed fit for kings (76)
Syvia is a mouse in a mouse hole (162)
Blue scrap of fabric is the sky (165)
Room is an icebox (201)
Onomatopoeia – a word that imitates a sound
Vroom, sput, sput (27)
Personification – describes animal, object, or idea as if it were a person
Feet walk as if they have nothing to fear (22)
Wool is ready to help (29—30)
Ghetto holds its secrets tightly and shrugs its shoulders when asked questions (39)
Dialogue between dolls (39)
Winter erases whole families (51)
Sun invites me out (167)
Similar Books for Further Reading :
Willy and Max: A Holocaust Story by Amy Littlesugar and William Low, Escaping into the Night by D. Dina Friedman, The Night Spies by Kathy Kacer, Lost in America by Marilyn Sachs, Ten Thousand Children by Anne Fox and Eva Abraham-Podietz, Anne Frank and Me by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gotlesfeld, Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl, Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orlev, Katarina by Kathryn Winter, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas, A Place to Hide by Jayne Pettit, Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren, and Tell Them to Remember by Susan Bachrach. This is just a partial list of quality children’s Holocaust literature.