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Yellow Star

By Jennifer Roy
Marshall Cavendish
www.marshallcavendish.us

99 White Plains Road
Tarrytown NY 10591
914-332-8888


A friend once told me, "Everyone has a story to tell." Well, that is certainly true of Jennifer Roy. Yellow Star is a biographical account of her aunt Syvia's experience as a child in a Polish ghetto during World War II. It gives Syvia's account from the time she enters the Lodz ghetto at age four and a half until she is released at age ten. With the voice of a child, the book reads like poetry. Organized by years and seasons, the paragraphs are very short thoughts or conversations. The book reads easily and quickly, giving the reader a stark image of what Syvia's life was like during that time.

Written in five parts, with a short introduction to each, the book also includes an Author's Note that gives further information about Syvia's life and a World War II timeline. In the introduction, Jennifer Roy explains how this book came to be. Through taped telephone interviews with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor, she retrieved the story. "First I tried to write the story as a straight nonfiction account. Too dry. Next, I rewrote it in the third person narrative. But that didn't quite work, either." Finally she hit upon the idea of writing the book in the first person, as if her aunt were telling the story herself. And it is very effective.

As one might expect for a book about the Holocaust, there are a lot of horrible situations: poverty and hunger and discomfort, neighbors disappearing, children ripped from their parents' arms, executions, the constant fear of being taken away or killed, and the absolute need to hide. Through it all, Syvia's family and extended family are her strength. This strong sense of family is woven into the narrative. Here is one beautiful example: ". . . [T]hey all smile at me. Their love fills the air around me, and I gulp it down." Syvia is especially close to her father, and he is her self-sacrificing protector. One night when the Nazis are searching for children in the ghetto, Syvia's father takes her out to the cemetery to hide. He digs a hole for her behind a gravestone and tells her to get inside and stay hidden there for the night. Syvia is terrified and refuses, even though she is usually a very obedient child. Her father, knowing her fear, proceeds to dig the "bed" large enough for the two of them and together they spend the night in the cemetery.

Yellow Star is written for children ages ten and up. I would say teens and adults would also find it fascinating, as I did. The book is compelling-I couldn't put it down. My children loved that it was written in the voice of a child. This book gives a name and a face to victims of the atrocities of the Holocaust. I have two little girls right in the middle of the age bracket of Syvia's time in the ghetto, and I kept thinking of them as I read about her. Children younger than ten could certainly understand the book, but parents will want to use their discretion about when to expose them to this part of history. The only thing I could wish for is an annotated bibliography of the author's recommendations for further reading.

I strongly recommend this book to those studying the Holocaust, especially if you want to get a better understanding for what it was like to be a Jewish child during that horrible event.



Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, April 2007


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