Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Recommended by Fran Walker (@fran_walker89)

Form and genre: Novel, prose fiction. Historical fiction

Length: 208 pages

Summary: Misha is a lost boy in the city of Warsaw as the Nazis invade. Over time he becomes a Jew, a Gypsy, a thief, a smuggler and a brother. Identity is central to Misha’s adventure, but so is survival.

Age recommendation and challenging content: It’s set in Warsaw during the invasion of the Nazis and then the plight of Polish Jews being taken to the ghetto. There are some descriptions of violence and the bombings. I have taught it to year 8 and 9 and would say it can be successful with either.

Notable reasons for recommending this book: It is a great novel for different levels of readers. The language is simple enough for lower ability readers to access, but there is complexity for others to get stuck into. I have taught it to teach critical essay skills but have also linked it to wider cultural studies looking at refugees, a study of the Holocaust or the ghetto.

Other useful information:  It’s a beautiful story that’s not your typical WW2 novel. Spinelli writes in a very precise way with lots of short sentence structures but detailed description. Misha is a loveable rogue and you begin to wonder how much traumatic events of history really do pass children by.