The Doll With the Yellow Star

Jul 8, 2012

As you may be able to tell, I am currently starting a new "way" to review; let's see how it goes, we'll play it by ear. I did get the inspiration from the blogging site,

I have also started made changes to the blog. Can you figure out what they are?


The Doll with the Yellow Star The Doll with the Yellow Star by Yona Zeldis McDonough (2005)
Length: 96 pages
Genre: Children's Books
Started: 3 July 2012
Finished: 3 July 2012
Where did it come from? The local library
Why do I have it? Thought it looks interesting, browsed the library shelves and found it
Reading Challenges: Dream Big. READ; Barnes and Noble reading challenge; TD Bank Young Savers Challenge
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Overall Summary and Review: Claudine is growing up in a terrifying world, but she does not feel involved in any way with the war, which is still a few countries away. Then, everything changes when Germans occupy her homeland of France. Claudine knows she is lucky to be given a special doll who is dressed like a young girl for her birthday, yet she begins to question her luck when she is forced to wear an ugly yellow star just because she is a Jew. While Maman and Papa are arranging for her secret escape to New York, Claudine ponders whether or not it is fair for her to be banned from her school and friends. Due to the loss of her doll to a fire on the ship, Claudine feels ever more lost. During her time on Long Island, N.Y., Claudine tries desperately to reconnect with her inner self-- and find what it really means to be a Jew.

I think that the perspective that this story has is amazing; take a really terrifying topic and see it in the eyes of a kid. I do not understand Claudine's adamant feeling about sewing a yellow star in the coat of her precious doll, Violette, however. She isn't supposed to like the star, right? So how come she is so adamant in asking Maman to sew the star? Is it a kind of anger? It does say that Claudine had a "grim satisfaction" when it was done...

You can read in the author's note that Violette, Claudine's doll, was supposed to stand as a symbol for "childhood innocence", which I think is quite clever...

The idea for The Doll with the Yellow Star first came to me after reading an article...describing the work of Trudie Strobel, a Holocaust survivor who...devised an unique way of dealing with the traumas of her past... The article went on to describe how Strobel... decided to re-create the lost childhood doll...

Trudie Strobel's story stayed with me for years. I remained captivated by the idea of a little girl losing a doll-- the symbol of childhood innocence-- and by having that doll in some way restored. The brutality of World War II, a time when so much more than dolls was lost, is something that is hard for children-- or anyone else, for that matter-- to accept and understand. But in the symbol of the doll, I found something concrete and tangible to which a child could relate.

However, I stumbled across a somewhat negative review from the School Library Journal which I think conveys a very good point:

Her journey, adjustment to life in America, and eventual reunion with her father make up the bulk of this story, but what is missing is any true sense of what it feels like to leave behind everything that you know and face an uncertain future in a strange new place. Although nicely written and generously illustrated with watercolors, many events in the book feel contrived, and the reunion of Claudine with her doll in the end seems less of a miracle than merely a device to wrap things up. Vera W. Propp's When the Soldiers Were Gone (Putnam, 1999) is a better choice for showing the impact of the war on children separated from their parents.

I understand that Claudine didn't have to face an "uncertain future" since she was going to live with her Aunt Adele and Uncle Gus, yet I do not think that Claudine had ever met these relatives of hers. So why didn't she feel shy or uncomfortable? In the story the main point conveyed is that Claudine was only miserable because of her lost doll, not because she was having trouble adjusting to her new surroundings. I agree, also, that the reunion of Claudine and her doll is too quick, too something for my taste (I can't quite put my finger on it).

Another review says:

Writing a Holocaust novel for young children is a tricky business, but McDonough succeeds in conveying the realities of war without terrorizing her audience. Violette is a symbol of innocence lost, but like Claudine's father, the doll is miraculously found and restored by the end of the story. The use of the present tense brings a sense of immediacy to the telling, while Root's full-color artwork lends a feeling of reassurance. Give this to fans of Amy Hest's Love You, Soldier (1993), also set in New York City, but with an American Jewish protagonist.

I have not read either "When the Soldiers Were Gone" or "Love You, Soldier" but I think that the second review is right, Mrs. McDonough does not terrorize her audience because she includes no scenes of war, only descriptions of effects of the war and of course none of concentration camps.

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