Poland, 1941. When the soldiers come to round up the Jewish men for labor duty, only half of them return. Róża knows that she must take her daughter Shira—already full of joy and music—away. The two find shelter in the hay loft of a farmer’s barn, where Shira struggles to stay still and quiet. Notes and melodies pulse inside the young girl, and it’s hard for her to resist the temptation to tap them out with her fingers and her feet. To pass the time, Róża tells Shira a story. There is a little girl who, with the help of her yellow bird, tends an enchanted garden.
With this game of make believe, Róża soothes Shira and shields her from the horrors around them. But then the day comes when their haven is no longer safe and Róża must face an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side, or give her the chance to survive apart.
Inspired by the true stories of children hidden during World War II, THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS is a novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter, the power of storytelling, and the triumph of hope in even the darkest of times.
Thank you to Flatiron Books for an early physical copy as well as allowing me to participate in the blog tour! I also received an early digital copy on NetGalley, so thank you to them too.
Trigger Warnings: Animal slaughter, rape, murder, miscarriage.
The reader follows a Jewish mother and daughter—Roza and Shira—in Poland during WWII. They hide in the loft of a farmer’s barn, but Roza has to pay a disgusting price. Henryk, the farmer, comes up to the loft every night and takes advantage of Roza, even though he is already married to a woman named Krystyna. They are able to feed her daughter and that’s all that matters. Shira is a musical prodigy, and that just might reveal their whereabouts, so Roza tells her stories about a yellow bird that can sing ANY song Shira can think of.
This was probably the hardest and saddest part of the novel to get through. They stay in the barn from 1941 to 1942, eating what the farmer is able to provide, going to the bathroom in a bucket, having to stay quiet and still for TWO years. There is a lot of tension between Roza and Shira. Roza wants them to be safe, but she has a young daughter who struggles to accept and understand what is going on around them. I can’t imagine how hard that would be.
What I liked most about the first part of the novel is how raw and real it is. Roza started to get upset with Shira. Roza became numb to what happens with Henryk. The novel isn’t shy when it comes to showing the reader emotion. The saddest part is when Roza has to let go of Shira. I almost cried in Starbucks while reading that part.
Eventually, Shira is taken away to a convent since Nazis are planning to commandeer Henryk’s barn. The convent renames her Zosia so nobody knows she’s Jewish. Here is where she learns to play the violin. She can finally become that musical prodigy we all knew she’d become.
This may sound heartless, but I really didn’t care for Zosia’s parts in the book. This was one of the main reasons I bumped the rating down to four-stars.
Meanwhile, Roza is forced to roam around the forest to hide from Nazis. She makes it a point to change the direction of her footsteps. When she runs into sisters, Chana and Miri, she begins to question if letting her daughter go was the right thing to do.
In this case, it was the right thing to do. She saved her daughter from a life full of misery and horror. Her daughter went on to be successful, and that’s truly all a mother could ask for.
The ending is very bittersweet. It didn’t end how I expected it to, but I was definitely satisfied with it. I want you all to go read this, so I won’t spoil anything!
Don’t go into this expecting a war novel. It’s the relationship between a mother and a daughter who are trying to escape from the horrors of WWII. It’s life or death, and it’s Roza’s responsibility to decide what’s best for her daughter. I thought the imaginary yellow bird was adorable, and it managed to help Shira/Zosia through many tough situations.
There are quite a few side characters, but none of them really stick. This book truly is about the mother and daughter.
Roza is a trooper to say the least. There are so many smart yet devastating decisions she has to make throughout the novel. She is aware of her surroundings, and her only goal is to get back to her daughter. I’m sure there are reasons someone might not like her, but I would tell them to put themselves in her shoes. Would you rather save your daughter at ALL costs, or risk her dying in the forest because you couldn’t provide enough food/water?
Shira/Zosia was interesting, but if I’m being honest, I didn’t care for her parts of the novel as much. I loved that she was finally able to become that musical prodigy, but I have no interest/knowledge about that. She’s tough and smart for a young girl during this time period. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about her.
The writing style can be easily digested. Simple and straightforward. I liked that it wasn’t convoluted, but I wish it had a little more “oomph”. It did have its whimsical/lyrical moments that I absolutely loved. I can appreciate the writing is what I’m trying to say. It was able to tell a beautiful story.
I would highly recommend this! It has its gritty, heartbreaking moments, but in the end, you won’t be disappointed. The mother/daughter relationship is interesting to watch while under that kind of strain. There are moments that Roza breaks—she’s not a robot. Shira just wants to be a kid. There is so much tension and fear that comes from these two characters, but there is also A LOT of love.
It’s pretty incredible, and I’m telling you right now to read it when it comes out.
About the Author |
Jennifer Rosner is the author the memoir If A Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard. Her children’s book, The Mitten String, is a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable. Jennifer’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Massachusetts Review, The Forward, Good Housekeeping, and elsewhere. She lives in western Massachusetts with her family.
Giveaway Winner Announcement |
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