If she survives the day in the cemetery hole, what happens next? She has already given up so much of her childhood. Gone are the days of playing with friends, she has no toys, her last birthday was celebrated without even a piece of bread, and now, she is threatened with being separated from her family. Her family is ALL she has left in life - how can the soldiers be so cruel to the youngest members of the Lodz ghetto?Will her father keep her safe today in the cemetery? And what about tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that? How can survival be this difficult when you are only 10 years old?
Awards & Reviews:
Yellow Star is the story of Jennifer Roy's aunt, Sylvia (Syvia) Perlmuuter Rozines, who was one of twelve children to survive the Lodz ghetto. The book is written using a free verse form, and recounts Ms. Rozines' memory from the time she was about five, in 1939, until the ghetto was liberated in 1945, when she is almost ten. An author's note at the end is actually an epilogue, and there is also a time line.
Only 12 children survived the Lodz ghetto, and Roy's aunt Syvia was one of them. But for more than 50 years, Syvia kept her experience to herself: "It was something nobody talked about." Roy didn't know, and she admits that she didn't want to know. She always avoided Holocaust history. She was afraid of it; when she was growing up, there was no Holocaust curriculum, no discussion-just those images of atrocity, piles of bones, and skeletal survivors being liberated. Her father, too, was a survivor, but he seldom spoke of those years, and with his death, his story was lost. But a few years ago, Roy's aunt began to talk about Lodz, and based on taped phone interviews, Roy wrote her story, presenting it from the first-person viewpoint of a child, Syvia, in simple, urgent free verse in the present tense. Each section begins with a brief historical introduction, and there is a detailed time line at the end of the book.
The author's grandmother, Syvia Perlmutter, was one of only twelve Jewish children who survived the Lodz ghetto in Poland. This free-verse novel based on her memories is a moving, harrowing tale from the limited, often uncomprehending perspective of a child. First sent to Lodz with her family at the age of five, Syvia spends most of the next six years in hiding, as the Nazis systematically root out and take away as many children from their parents as they can. After digging a hole in a nearby cemetery, Syvia and her father hide inside it while the Nazis raid their neighborhood. Later, when the less able-bodied (including any remaining children) are sent away on trains to so-called work camps, Syvia and other children are sequestered in a cellar by their parents; they manage to survive in hiding until they are liberated by the Russians in 1945. While periodic lapses into a more adult sensibility sometimes disrupt the child's-eye view and reveal what is, in fact, a distance of many years from story's events, other moments - such as Syvia's wondering whether or not her doll is Jewish - are poignant in their naïveté. For the most part, the free-verse format suits the young narrator and subject matter well; the poems can either be read as snapshots of life in Lodz or as one continuous lyrical narrative that nevertheless clips along at a brisk pace. Readers searching for an accessible Holocaust novel will be absorbed by this haunting story based on true events. An introduction detailing the historical events and the author's relationship with her grandmother is included, and a timeline is appended.
Kirkus Reviews Syvia, the author's aunt, is too young to know what's happening, but she and her family have been evicted from their home and, with the other neighborhood Jews, have been relocated to the Lodz ghetto at the start of WWII. This novel-in-verse tells how Syvia and her family struggled to survive the war and describes their lives in the ghetto, Syvia being one of only 12 children who walked out at the end of the war. Poetry blends fact and fiction in a powerful format that helps make this incomprehensible event in history comprehensible for children. The fictionalized story is given context by brief nonfiction chapter introductions and is personalized by vivid characters who speak to a young-adult audience. Young readers will find this gripping tale that reads like memoir textured with the sounds, smell and sights of children in captivity. By telling this story so credibly and convincingly through the eyes of a child, the terror of the experience is rendered fresh and palpable for even the most jaded child reader. Classroom teachers might want to partner this book with Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed (2003).
In February 1940, four-and-half-year-old Syvia (later Sylvia) Perlmutter, her mother, father and 12-year-old sister, Dora, were among the first of more than 250,000 Jews to be forced into Poland's Lodz Ghetto. When the Russians liberated the ghetto on January 19, 1945, the Perlmutters were among only 800 people left alive; Syvia, "one day shy of ten years old," was one of just 12 children to survive the ordeal. The novel is filled with searing incidents of cruelty and deprivation, love, luck and resilience. But what sets it apart is the lyricism of the narrative, and Syvia's credible childlike voice, maturing with each chapter, as she gains further understanding of the events around her. Roy, who is Syvia's niece, tells her aunt's story in first-person free verse. "February 1940" begins: "I am walking/ into the ghetto./ My sister holds my hand/ so that I don't/ get lost/ or trampled/ by the crowd of people/ wearing yellow stars,/ carrying possessions,/ moving into the ghetto." The rhythms, repetitions and the space around each verse enable readers to take in the experience of an ordinary child caught up in incomprehensible events: "I could be taken away/ on a train,/ .../ and delivered to Germans/ who say that nothing belongs to Jewish people any-/ more./ Not even their own children." Nearly every detail (a pear Syvia bravely plucks from a tree in the ghetto, a rag doll she makes when her family must sell her own beloved doll) underscores the wedded paradox of hope and fear, joy and pain. Ages 10-up.
Gr 5-9 In thoughtful, vividly descriptive, almost poetic prose, Roy retells the true story of her Aunt Syvia's experiences in the Lodz Ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The slightly fictionalized story, re-created from her aunt's taped narrative, is related by Syvia herself as a series of titled vignettes that cover the period from fall, 1939, when she is four years old, until January 1945 each one recounting a particular detail-filled memory in the child's life (a happy-colored yellow star sewn on her favorite orange coat; a hole in the cemetery where she hides overnight with her Papa). The book is divided into five chronological sections each with a short factual introduction to the period covered. An appended author's note tells what happened to Syvia's family after the war. A time line of World War II, beginning with the German invasion of Poland, is also included. This gripping and very readable narrative, filled with the astute observations of a young child, brings to life the Jewish ghetto experience in a unique and memorable way. This book is a standout in the genre of Holocaust literature. --Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
This wonderfully written first novel is based on the experiences of Syvia Perlmutter, one of only twelve children who survived the Lodz ghetto in Poland during World War II. Roy interviewed Perlmutter, who is actually her aunt, in 2003. Short "poems" and simple language appropriate for Syvia's age make the book a quick but poignant read. Syvia was four years old when her family reported to Lodz along with more than 270,000 others. In 1942, the Nazis began deporting children from Lodz to the Chelmno extermination camp. Parents were told that their children were being taken to safety, but Syvia's father suspected that the children would be killed and sought ways to hide her. The most inconspicuous hiding place was a graveyard where Syvia and her father lay in a shallow grave. When the final train departed Lodz headed for Auschwitz-Birkenau, only 1,200 Jews were left behind to clean the ghetto. Among them were twelve children whom they smuggled into a cellar. The survivors huddled together in 1945 while Russian soldiers bombed Lodz, but they were eventually liberated when the soldiers saw the reflection of their yellow stars of David. After five and a half years in the ghetto, Syvia spent her teen years in Paris and then later moved to Albany, New York. She now volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
~ from "Yellow Star Guides for Teachers and Book groups" by Jennifer Roy.
Holocaust Education Foundation at www.Holocaust-trc.org
The Lodz Ghetto, Jewish Virtual Library - http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/lodz.html
Museum of Tolerance - http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=gvKVLcMVIuG&b=358201
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - http://www.ushmm.org/education/
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust at http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/activity/activity.htm
Voice/Vision: Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive at http://holocaust.umd.umich.edu/
Voices of the Holocaust at http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/voices/holocaust.html
Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority - http://www.yadvashem.org
Spiritual, Educational, and physical resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto by Sol A. Factor - http://mandelproject.us/Factor.htm
Teaching the Holocaust: "Light from the Yellow Star" Leads the Way by Nancy Gorrell, English Journal, Vol. 86 No. 8, December 1997
Other Books by the Author:
About the Author:
"I love reading, drawing, playing piano, napping, talking way too much on the telephone, scrapbooking, and - most of all - being with my family." ~ Jennifer Roy
Find out more about Jennifer Roy at www.jenniferroy.com
Read an interview with Jennifer Roy at http://misserinmarie.blogspot.com/2007/02/interview-jennifer-roy.html