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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Island on Bird Street (The)
by Uri Orlev
Age Range: 9-11
Set in a Polish ghetto during the occupation, eleven-year-old Alex's finds himself alone except for his pet mouse, Snow. First, his mother disappears after going to visit some friends in a different ghetto and then Alex and his father become separated when his father is ‘selected’ by the Germans for an unknown destination. Boruch, his father’s friend suggests that Alex hide in a ruined, bombed out building on their street – 78 Bird Street – where Alex should remain until his father returns. Alex makes his escape and manages to hide from the pursuing German soldiers.
Over the next five months Alex lives in the ghetto searching for food and building his hideout. Whilst others hiding in bunkers are discovered and looters are constantly on the prowl for food and other items, Alex manages to remain undetected, determined to wait for his father to come back. His resourcefulness, ingenuity and courage help him to survive the long, lonely weeks of waiting.
The Island on Bird Street was inspired by Israeli author, Uri Orlev's own experiences of the Warsaw Ghetto. Although it does deal with the persecution of the Jews, it is also a page-turning adventure of Alex’s struggle for survival that does not dwell on the horrors or detail the suffering but instead is full of compassion and humanity in the face of unbelievable circumstances.
The Island on Bird Street was awarded the Mildred L. Bachelder Award in 1995.