Cover image for The yellow bird sings : a novel
Title:
The yellow bird sings : a novel
ISBN:
9781250179760
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
294 pages ; 25 cm.
Summary:
It is wartime in German-occupied Poland. A mother hides with her five-year-old daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives. The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom. When the daisies grow abundant, the bird weaves a garland for the girl to wear on her head like a princess-though no one can see. She must hide from everyone in the village: soldiers, the farmhouse boys, the neighbors too. The lady with squinty eyes and blocky shoes just dragged a boy down the street and returned, proud and straight-backed, cradling a sack of sugar like a baby. After the Jews in their town are rounded up, Róza and her daughter, Shira, spend day and night hidden in a farmer's barn. Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses inside her. To pass the time, Róza tells Shira a story: There is a little girl who, with the help of her yellow bird, tends an enchanted garden. The garden must be kept completely silent-only the bird can sing the girl's musical compositions-and together the girl and her bird avert many threats. Thus Róza manages to soothe Shira and shield her from the horrors around them. But then the day comes when their haven is no longer safe and Róza must face an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side, or give her the chance to survive apart. The Yellow Bird Sings is a beautiful, heartrending novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter, and the triumph of hope in even the darkest of times. --
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Summary

Summary

"A beautiful book in so many ways...Gripping, heartrending, and so very real." --Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor's barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner's debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope--a whispered story, a bird's song--in even the darkest of times.


Author Notes

Jennifer Rosner is the author of If A Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard, a memoir about raising her deaf daughters in a hearing, speaking world. 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. The Yellow Bird Sings is her debut novel and is being published around the world.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rosner's moving if unsurprising debut novel (after the memoir If a Tree Falls) follows a mother and daughter's struggles to survive the Holocaust. In 1941, after Jewish Róża's parents and husband are killed by the Nazis in Poland, she finds refuge for herself and her daughter, five-year-old Shira, in the barn of Henryk and his wife, Krystyna, gentiles who had patronized her family bakery, though Róża is only able to extend their stay by sleeping with Henryk. Rosner is at her best in the book's earliest sections, as she conveys Róża's efforts to balance comfort for Shira with the need to keep their presence in the barn a secret. Róża cleverly enlists Shira's cooperation in keeping quiet by spinning stories of a young girl and a yellow bird that can voice the musical compositions written by the child. After a year of shelter, Nazi troops tell Henryk they will appropriate the barn, and Róża reluctantly consents to a plan crafted by Krystyna for her and Shira to escape separately. With Shira hidden in a convent and Róża fleeing through the snow-covered woods, Rosner switches between points of view to craft a wrenching chronicle of their separate journeys, though the conclusion suffers from schmaltz. This will offer few surprises to avid readers of Holocaust fiction. (Mar.)


Kirkus Review

Rosner's debut novel is a World War II story with a Room-like twist, one that also deftly examines the ways in which art and imagination can sustain us.Five-year-old Shira is a prodigy. She hears entire musical passages in her head, which "take shape and pulse through her, quiet at first, then building in intensity and growing louder." But making sounds is something Shira is not permitted to do. She and her mother, Ra, are Jews who are hiding in a barn in German-occupied Poland. Soldiers have shot Ra's husband and dragged her parents away, and after a narrow escape, mother and daughter cower in a hayloft day and night, relying on the farmer and his wife to keep them safe from neighbors and passing patrols. The wife sneaks Shira outside for fresh air; the husband visits Ra late at night in the hayloft to exact his price. To keep Shira occupied and quiet the rest of the time, Ra spins tales of a little girl and a yellow bird in an enchanted but silent garden menaced by giants; only the bird is allowed to sing. But when Ra is offered a chance to hide Shira in an orphanage, she must weigh her daughter's safety against her desire to keep the girl close. Rosner builds the tension as the novel progresses, wisely moving the action out of the barn before the premise grows tired or repetitive. This is a Holocaust novel, but it's also an effective work of suspense, and Rosner's understanding of how art plays a role in our lives, even at the worst of times, is impressive.A mother and her child-prodigy daughter struggle to survive the Holocaust by telling stories and remembering the power of music. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Five-year-old Shira must stay absolutely silent in the barn where she and her mother are hiding. It is summer 1941 in Poland, and they have fled their town, where Shira's grandparents had been hauled off and her father shot after digging trenches. Shira's mother, Róza, relies on the kind looks the owner of the barn once gave her at their bakery, and for the time being his wife seems pulled by maternal instinct to protect the young girl. But the farmer expects his own payment from Róża every night. Under the constant threat of danger, Róza tells Shira about a magical garden with a little bird who can sing the beautiful compositions that run through her head. But as the scratches Róza makes on the rafter to mark each day begin to number in the dozens, then hundreds, it's clear that she must make a drastic change and risk separation to keep her daughter safe. This stunning debut novel sings with the power of a mother's love and the heartbreaking risks she'll endure.


Library Journal Review

DEBUT As Nazis descend on Poland, rounding up Jews and sending them to concentration camps, Roza and five-year-old daughter Shira survive by hiding in the barn of a grudging neighbor. To stay safe, they must stay still. But musical prodigy Shira shimmers with music, so Roza tells her the story of an enchanted garden where a yellow bird does the little girl's singing for her: "The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon." But the danger doesn't abate, and soon Roza realizes that she must send her daughter away to save her. As Shira is hidden in plain sight at a convent, where violin training reveals the virtuoso she is to become, Roza vanishes into the forest, where she initially survives on her own and finally finds love and meaning at an encampment of Jewish resisters. But will she ever see Shira again? VERDICT Memoirist and award-winning children's author Rosner challenges the Holocaust with a touch of magic (the yellow bird appears throughout), clarifying a dangerous time and place even as she offers a vibrant, affecting portrait of the mother-daughter relationship. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/19.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal