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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Spinelli is an author I respect, and this book is done well and worth reading. It is written from the perspective of a young boy who lives in Warsaw during World War II. He steals food, runs, and then eats - that is the chain of events that he is used to following and doesn't always know what to do when something unexpected changes the usual plan. An older boy asks his name, and this little boy says 'stopthief' because that's all anyone ever calls him.

An older boy named Uri finds him and takes care of him and tries to keep him safe. Uri decides to call him Misha and makes up Misha's life story. Misha is little and fast, and surviving comes naturally to him – stealing bread and other food from people and stores when necessary. Spinelli tells the story of before, during and after the war through the eyes of a child who does not understand and has never had anyone to explain things to him well. So Misha sees acts of violence and degredation and doesn't know why they are significant or evil – but the reader knows. Misha ends up being moved into the ghetto with his gang of boys (all stealers and later smugglers), and becoming part of a Jewish family. This gives Spinelli opportunity to tell about what conditions were like in Warsaw and in the ghetto – not like a textbook, or with guilt behind it, but as a child would have seen it and become adjusted to certain realities. The brashness of Misha surprises all those around him, but he is never hurt too badly. War happens around him and finally affects all of those closest to him (with the boy who took care of him being gone from the ghetto often and becoming the enemy.) The end speeds through his life quickly – not all the ends are neatly taken care of. In fact, few are. But it is a book about war and the craziness of life which affects every aspect. This is a wonderful book -- hard to read in places because it is about war. It is well written – in terms of action, characters and bringing the past to life.

Author:Jerry Spinelli
Date published:2003
Genre:Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Number of pages:208
Notes:recommended age is 9-12, but that seems too young to me


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