Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 20, 2019

Book Giveaway: MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli

Even though this stunning novel of the Holocaust from Newbery Medalist, Jerry Spinelli was published in 2003, it is a story that children should read and adults should never forget. I had this book on my nightstand for a few years before I read it. I was afraid the story would drag my spirit down. All I had to do is read the first page and I knew Jerry would not do that to his readers. It is beautifully written and a heartwarming story. If you are a writer, you can learn a lot about sentence structure and character development while reading this book.

Producer Gail Rosenblum is working on making an animated film of Milkweed. Here is the link to a video talking about working on making the movie. If the end result of what they are doing with animating Milkweed is as good as this video it should get awards when it is done.

Jerry has agreed to giveaway a copy of Milkweed to help promote this animated movie project that Gail Rosenblum is working on. The illustrations below are from the animated movie. The book is not illustrated.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Vivian!


Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young Holocaust orphan.

He’s a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Filthy son of Abraham.

He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself, and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels.

He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi, with tall, shiny jackboots of his own-until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind.

And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.



The story that became Milkweed began on the living room floor of my row house in Norristown, PA, when I was in first or second grade. I would sit there turning the pages of my father’s history books about World War II, looking at the black and white pictures. Some of the pictures I came across didn’t seem to make  sense. They were disturbing in a way I could not have articulated. Thinking the printer may have made a mistake, I turned the pages this way and that and finally had to concede that I was seeing what I could scarcely bring myself to believe: the pictures showed bodies…dead, naked bodies, so many of them that they were in piles. This was my introduction to the event known as The Holocaust.

It was the beginning of a lifetime of reading about The Holocaust and its victims.

When I became a writer, it occurred to me several times to write a story about The Holocaust. Questions always turned me away. Who did I think I was, presuming to write about such a thing? I was neither Jew nor victim. I didn’t even personally know a victim. And anyway, did the world really need yet another book about The Holocaust?

And then one day my own words came back to me, words I have often said in answer to a question familiar to authors: “Do you have any advice for somebody who wants to be a writer?” Since becoming published for the first time myself, the answering words have always been this: “Write what you care about.” I try to emphasize the word “care,” underlining it in my voice.

And so I decided that in fact I was qualified; I had the most important credential of all: I cared. I gave myself permission to write.

The launch moment came one day when my wife Eileen brought to my attention a story from the Warsaw ghetto. It involved a Jewish pharmacist and his ingenious plan to break his son free. There was only one way out of the ghetto: dead, in a coffin or otherwise. The pharmacist made a coffin, lay his son in it, and gave him a drug that rendered him apparently lifeless to any casual observer. He had instructed his son that when he awoke he was to wait until dark and then flee. The coffin, he knew, would be carted outside the ghetto wall, where it would not be buried but simply tossed into a pit of corpses.

Neither the writer of the account nor, presumably, the father ever found out what became of the boy. But I was deeply touched in that way familiar to all storytellers: I gotta write this.

As it turned out, I surrendered the drugged-boy-in-the-coffin idea for a main character that seemed to serve my story better: a kid small enough to smuggle food to the victims through drain holes in the ghetto wall. Misha was born.

Jerry didn’t have to shop this around. He had a signed contact from Knopf for his next book.


A graduate of Gettysburg College, Jerry Spinelli spent years working as a magazine editor before his writing career took off. He published his first book for kids, Space Station Seventh Grade, in 1982. In 1990, Spinelli won the Newbery Medal for his novel Maniac Magee. More acclaimed works soon followed: Wringer earn a Newbery Honor Medal in 1998, Stargirl (2000) and Milkweed(2003). His recent publications include Jake and Lily (2012), Hokey Pokey (2013), Mama Seeton’s Whistle (2015), The Wardens Daughter (2017). Jerry has published

When I was growing up, the first thing I wanted to be was a cowboy. That lasted till I was about ten. Then I wanted to be a baseball player. Preferably shortstop for the New York Yankees.

I played Little League in junior high and high school. I only hit two home runs in my career, but I had no equal when it came to standing at shortstop and chattering to my pitcher: “C’mon, baby, hum the pea.” Unfortunately, when I stood at the plate, so many peas were hummed past me for strikes that I decided to let somebody else become shortstop for the Yankees.

It was about that time that our high school football team won a heart-stopping game against one of the best teams in the country. While the rest of the town was tooting horns and celebrating, I went home and wrote a poem about the game. A few days later the poem was published in the local newspaper, and suddenly I had something new to become: a writer.

Little did I know that twenty-five years would pass before a book of mine would be published.

Not that I wasn’t trying. In the years after college I wrote four novels, but nobody wanted them. They were adult novels. So was number five, or so I thought. However, because it was about a thirteen-year-old boy, adult book publishers didn’t even want to see it. But children’s publishers did – and that’s how, by accident, I became an author of books for kids.

Life is full of happy accidents.

Sometimes I’m asked if I do research for my stories. The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first fifteen years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books.

John Ribble’s blazing fastball. Dovey Wilmouth, so beautiful a fleet of boys pedaled past her house ten times a day. Mrs. Seeton’s whistle calling her kids in to dinner. The day my black snake disappeared. The creek, the tracks, the dump, the red hills. My days did not pass through, but stayed, filling the shelves of my memory. They became the library where today I do my research.

I also get material from my own kids. Along the way I married another children’s writer, Eileen Spinelli, and from our six kids have come a number of stories. Jeffrey and Molly, who are always fighting, have been especially helpful.

Ideas also come from everyday life. And from the newspapers. One day, for example, I read a story about a girl who competed on her high school wrestling team. A year later bookstores carried a new book with my name on it: There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock.

So there you are. I never became a cowboy or baseball player, and now I’m beginning to wonder if I ever really became a writer. I find that I hesitate to put that label on myself, to define myself by what I do for a living. After all, I also pick berries and touch ponies and skim flat stones over water and marvel at the stars and breathe deeply and grin from ear to ear and save the best part for last. I’ve always done these things. Which is to say, I never had to become anything. Or anyone. I always, already, was.

Call me a berry-picking, pony-touching star-marveler.

Producer Gail Rosenblum BIO:

Gail Rosenblum has been working to bring “Milkweed” to light as a feature-length film for more than a decade. She now has her team in place and the screenplay complete; Gail has launched a “Milkweed” fundraising campaign via Facebook and also at Gail is a newspaper editor and columnist, author, public speaker and president of Minneapolis-based Roseberry Entertainment. Her first film, a 30-minute animated musical based on a beloved Yiddish folktale, was named one of the best children’s videos of the year by Child Magazine.

More at

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Cool idea, wishing them the best of luck with the movie fundraising!


  2. Once again, as so many times in the journeys of all of our maturing hearts, we get a chance to to take a fresh look at something Jerry Spinelli has given to humanity… a character who was born of Jerry’s heart to help us strengthen our own hearts! Cammie, Stargirl, Palmer, Maniac, Donald, and Will have all had a part in shaping millions of our hearts, including mine — in a big way! Now a new generation will begin that journey again with Misha.


  3. Just recently I’ve accidentally picked up several books about the Holocaust. The covers or titles have pulled me in, and without realizing the true topic, I’ve checked them out from the library. Once I began reading, I was worried about the darkness of the horrors. But writers have shared painful truths and hopeful stories amidst the tragedy. I look forward to reading this book as well. Thanks for sharing this story!


  4. I ❤ Jerry Spinelli and would love to see Milkweed on film. I've also shared the project on FB. Fingers crossed for speedy funding ~


  5. I haven’t read this book but I will see to it that I do. I sounds amazing. I loved reading about Jerry’s brush with baseball. I hope the film is made soon. That will be terrific. Thanks for the post.


  6. I have been reading so many wonderful books about this era. I would love to add MILKWEED to my collection. I am tweeting, sharing on FB and reblogging this wonderful story. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Kathy.


  7. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    I don’t know how I missed this wonderful bit of historical fiction for kids, but here is an opportunity to win a copy of MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli.


  8. I agree that it is important for all of us to read about and think about the Holocaust.


  9. ah, I loved this post. Reading about Jerry’s journey to writerhood, gave me pause to think about my own journey. And of course, the book looks amazing!


  10. Our sixth grade curriculum has a Jerry Spinelli unit, Milkweed is my favorite book and I recommend it to many students. Just an amazing story.


  11. Jerry Rocks! Not only as an author but as a human being. I was winner fo the 2017 Jerry Spinelli Scholarship at Highlights Foundation. I was elated to find out that he had a hand in the choosing of the winner and even commented on my submission. He inspires writers, kids, and readers. Jerry when I grow up I want to be you.


  12. I loved Milkweed! And I eagerly await the movie! Congratulations, Jerry!


  13. I’d love to read the book. Sounds creative and capitivating.


  14. Read and loved it!!! just like Jerry this book is the “Real deal”


  15. Even if I don’t win a copy, I’m definitely going to have to find a copy! Thank you for the chance to win!


  16. Jerry’s work is amazing 🙂 And CONGRATS on the movie!


  17. My child loved his Stargirl book and hoping to introduce her to Milkweed!


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