Cover Image: The Yellow Bird Sings

The Yellow Bird Sings

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Member Reviews


This is a beautiful story about a Jewish mother and daughter’s fight for survival during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.  It is a simple story, but rich with imagination, feeling, and hope.  Their day to day skills and brutal attempts at hiding are vividly and clearly shown through the variety of struggles that they must endure.  Memories of growing up in a loving family with a musical background, along with creative story telling with the help of a little yellow bird, convey a wonderful message about the importance of strong values and creativity.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Jennifer Rosner, and Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Beautifully written, this novel by Jennifer Rosner is another very moving story of the survival of Jews during the Holocaust.  The stories of people who survived that horrible time period in our collective history need to be recorded for the future generations.  This is a wonderful way to preserve the horror of the age, with the beauty of love and each person's experience written as a novel that makes the atrocities more bearable to read about.

The Yellow Bird Sings is the story that so many survivors tell from both  the mother and the child's perspective.  This story though a creation of the author's imagination combines some of these tales into a story from both the child's perspective and the parents's experience.  The camps and the crimes committed there are alluded to as the backdrop for this plot but in this novel we focus on a mother and her five year old daughter who have escaped as their family was killed in their small Polish town.
Now they are hiding in a barn for the night hoping that this man who had shopped in their family store will be kind to them when he finds them there.

Hidden in the hayloft days and nights turn into a year, as Roza and Shira stay hidden and silent. Communicating in whispers and made up sign language they spend their time together eating potatoes and other food scraps brought to them by the farmer, Henryk.  A few times when the rest of the family is away the wife, Krystyna, will take Shira out into the sunshine to see the chickens and the cow.  She will share some milk and an egg with her, but not for Roza.  

Shira has a secret pet bird who stays with her when she is happy and when she is scared.  "Shira's bird stays with her when Krystyna takes her out of the barn, and when the warning footsteps of the soldiers prompt Shira and her mother to bury themselves completely under the hay. When Shira is happy,..... he perches in the rafters or on a mound of hay nearby.  But when she is upset....he flies straight into her cupped hands."

When it becomes too dangerous to stay any longer, Krystyna offers to help get Shira to an orphanage. Roza fearing that she and her daughter cannot survive in the woods together through a cold harsh winter agrees.

Shira is taken without understanding what is happening to her to a catholic orphanage where the nuns rename her Zosia.  Her hair is dyed blond and she is taught her catechism.  But she is also introduced to the violin and her music ability is discovered.  though she is well treated by the nuns, as well fed as can be during a war and warm and dry, she misses her mother and is worried about forgetting her past.   But the music from her childhood comes through and reminds her of her Jewish background and family Shabbats.  these musical moments will be what saves her.

Roza on the other hand is out int he woods, surviving the elements, surviving on mushrooms and thistles that she cooks into soup, until she meets up with some other Jewish partisans hiding.  Life for her is hard and she misses Shira, and is always searching for her.  She is always conflicted of she did the correct thing sending her to the orphanage.  The rest of her life will be in search of her daughter.

This is a touching at times heartbreaking story from both sides.  There was good and evil but this story and so many others show that in the end though there are not always perfect endings there can be happiness, kindness and love.  People did help others, some more altruistically than others.  Each story is unique and incredible.
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A haunting story about a Jewish mother and her five-year-old daughter who attempt to hide from the Germans after their family is killed by the Nazis.  It’s a beautifully written story about the love they share, as well as a heartbreaking story of the love they lost.  The love of music they share will last throughout their lifetime as they attempt to find each other after such a long time.  A riveting novel about love and sacrifice under extraordinary circumstances.  I could not put this book down.
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I just could not get attached to this story. While some of it did feel fresh, and I do love a good WWII set historical fiction, I just... didn't care enough to finish this one.
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The world was turned upside down for people of the Jewish faith starting in the early 1930s through the end of WWII. Mothers hid there precious children best they could from the horrors of the war. Jennifer Rosner did a marvelous job relating a story of one such Jewish mother and her years spent hiding her little daughter in the book “The Yellow Bird Sings”.

As I turned each page of Rosner’s book I felt as if I was there, hiding my child from what I knew would be a terrifying fate. Descriptive words tell the story of hiding for years in the loft of a barn. Quiet, don’t move, shhhhh...words to live by as the starving mother and child hide under hay up above a world going crazy below them. A world of silence and whispered stories is what fill the days of the child and mother in hiding. But even that depleted life couldn’t last, so much more upheavals follow the pair, so much more tragedies to follow!

Such a gripping and marvelously told tale. Rosner did such good research on her subject and it comes through with the detail in her book! I enjoyed this book for its amazingly related story of a mother and child in peril. I certainly recommend this book to all historical novel loving fans!
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The book, The Yellow Bird Sings, was inspired by true stories the author, Jennifer Rosner, heard told to her by survivors who were children growing up during the Holocaust and hidden from the Nazis. It was hard to believe that this was Jennifer Rosner’s debut novel. She was able to capture that undeniable and unconditional love that only exists between a mother and her child that was both raw and very believable. The story itself had elements of hope, sadness, silence, separation, loss, despair, friendship and above all love.

As the story of The Yellow Bird Sings began in a small town in Poland in 1941, Roza had learned that her husband, Natan, had been shot by the Nazis after a week of excruciating hard labor. Nazi soldiers were going from home to home of Jewish men, women and children and forcing them to leave and board cattle cars. As the Nazis approached the home Roza shared with her parents and little daughter, Shira, Roza and Shira were able to hide in a closet. While the German soldiers were distracted by an altercation down the hall from the apartment Roza’s family occupied, Roza grabbed Natan’s watch and compass, some jewels for bartering and a few other possessions and fled. They avoided being taken by the Nazi soldiers. Roza knew that she and Shira could not stay there. She had to think of a place where the could go and be safe. Roza’s family had owned a bakery before the war began. She knew that she and five year old Shira had to leave the town and go somewhere in the country to be safe. Roza remembered a man that frequented the bakery and lived beyond the town on a farm. The two fled quickly from the town and found refuge in this neighbor’s barn. They hid in the hayloft. The man, Henryk, and his wife, Krystyna, were frightened to have Roza and Shira stay in their barn but they agreed to let them stay for a night or two. That night or two stretched into months.

Roza implored Shira to remain silent while they hid in the hayloft. It was required if they were to survive. They had to muffle every sound, sneeze and squeak of a floor board. Henryk convinced Krystyna to let Roza and Shira stay and they brought food when they could. One night, Henryk forced Roza to let him have his way with her while Shira was told to face the wall. As these nights became the norm, Shira quietly faced the wall and held her imaginary yellow bird in her little hand.

Shira struggled to stay quiet and still. After all, she was just a five year old little girl. Little did Rosa realize about the immense musical talent that laid dormant within her little daughter. After all, Roza’s father had been a luthier, a maker of violins and Natan had played the violin and she herself had played the cello. Shira was constantly tapping out music that she heard in her head of what seemed like symphonies. To protect Shira from the horrors surrounding them, Rosa invented stories she told Shira each night about a five year girl and her enchanted silent garden. Roza’s message in the stories were always the same, “some giants don’t like flowers, and because they believe the music in our voices helps the flowers grow, we must never let the giants hear our songs.” Shira questioned her mother about her yellow bird’s ability to sing. Roza’s answer was “ a bird can sing, so long as we stay silent.”

Roza and Shira had been hiding in Henryk and Krystyna’s barn for fifteen months when the Germans demand to use Henryk’s barn for storage. This forced Roza to make the most difficult decision of her life. Roza knew she had to leave the safety of the barn. Where would she go? If she was forced to live and survive in the forests would Shira be able to survive? Krystyna recommended that her sister could take Shira to a convent where she would be hidden and safe. This was an impossible choice. How could Roza be separated from her daughter? Roza knew above all she had to keep Shira safe so she sent the inconsolable child off to the convent and promised herself she would find Shira again when the war was over.

At the convent, Shira never gave up the hope of finding her mother again. The yellow bird accompanied her there and along with a violin, she found hope and comfort amidst the horrors of the Holocaust.

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner was a heartfelt, uplifting yet sad novel. In her novel, the effects of the Holocaust on children that were sent into hiding were revealed. The kindness of those that harbored these children, to keep them safe, while putting themselves in danger, was revealed and reflected on as well. It was a book of historical fiction that took on the themes of hope and love. I highly recommend this book.
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Jennifer Rosener’s beautiful, pull at your heart-strings novel of hope, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter and their struggle for survival and making sacrifices, taken place during World War II.
Thank you to NetGalley, the Publishers, and the author for this ARC ebook copy. All expressions and opinions are of my own.
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I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishing house, Flat Iron Books, for providing an advanced copy for review.  All thoughts and opinions written in this review are my own.

Roza and her 5 year old daughter, Shira, are Jews hiding in a barn during World War II.  As the war escalate, Roza makes the difficult decision to send her daughter away in hopes of keeping her safe.  As the war is drawing to a close, Rosa endures many hardships to find and reunite with her daughter.

I found myself holding my breath multiple times during this book.  Ms. Rosner beautifully writes about this families love of music and how it unites them. This is a beautifully written story.  If you are a WWII Historical Fiction junkie like me, you’ll want to read this book. (Rounded up to 4.5/5 stars.)
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It’s WW II and a Jewish family that is filled with music, finds their lives torn apart when the Germans invade Poland. Roza and her 5-year-old daughter Shira are alone and in hiding. Roza’s husband and parents were taken in the German roundup leaving her and her daughter with nowhere to turn except a neighboring barn that they use out of desperation. As the two hide in the barn loft, Roza and her daughter remember the music that permeated their home. It is paramount that little Shira be quiet and she follows her mother’s instructions. Silently, tiny Shira will finger the notes of her beloved music on her mother’s arm as they hide in the hay

The barn is a precarious place. Not only do the farmer and his family pose threats, but the biggest danger comes from the German soldiers who make regular sweeps of the farm. As the threat of exposure increases, Roza agrees to let her little girl be hidden away at a convent school. The decision haunts her, but she will do whatever is necessary to save Shira.

Separated by the monstrous war, the mother and daughter’s divergent paths are fraught with continual danger. Rosner’s story of a family devastated by war is powerful and moving. Little Shira who is consumed by silence yet able to create music is a memorable, touching character. The story of her and her mother is heartrending and powerful. Though there are many books set during this dark time in history, this one stands out because of the humanity of the little girl and her mother’s desperate attempts to find her after they separated.
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The Yellow Bird Sings will stay with you long after you finish it. As someone who loves historical fiction, specifically WWII and Holocaust, I am always skeptical that an author will be able to write yet another great book on this topic. Jennifer Rosner does just that. I could not put this book down despite how emotional I felt throughout. I will definitely be recommending this book to friends and family!

Thank you to Jennifer Rosner, Flatiron Books, and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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In Jennifer Rosner’s debut novel “The Yellow Bird Sings” the power of a mother-daughter bond is beautifully portrayed against the backdrop of 1941 Poland. Róża and 5-year-old Shira flee their hometown of Gracja, where Nazi soldiers dragged Róża's parents from their home and shot her husband Natan into a mass grave trench that he was forced to dig himself. A farmer and his wife grant Róża and Shira refuge in their barn, but they must remain silent and hidden so as not to alert suspicion from their neighbors. The life and death stakes paired with the intensity of a mother’s love makes you sit on the edge of your seat while the characters are confined to one place.

The necessity of quiet clashes with young Shira’s budding musical talent. Though she has not played instruments before, she grew up listening to Róża’s cello and Natan’s violin, so she constructs symphonies in her head from the everyday sounds surrounding her. In addition to dampening the rambunctious nature of a 5-year-old, Róża worries that Shira’s inclination to tap out rhythms will be their undoing.

The novel alternates perspectives between Róża and Shira. Readers gather the context and the severity of their circumstances through Róża’s worry. Then Shira’s confusion about their situation begs the question, how can you protect childhood innocence during wartime? Róża whispers stories about a yellow bird who sings on behalf of a little girl to help flowers grow. The girl herself has to keep quiet because the giants will stomp on her and her flowers. As Róża explains to Shira, “Some giants don’t like flowers, and because they believe the music in our voices helps the flowers grow, we must never let the giants hear our songs.”

The reason a Jewish mother must hide her daughter in a hayloft is because a fascist government cannot stand the unique metaphorical music Jewish culture brings to the fabric of society. “Róża only ever wanted Shira to feel pride in herself. Perhaps this is why she doesn’t tell her outright the reason they have to hide, why they are hunted. She’s not sure Shira would even understand if she tried to tell her.” Rosner’s prose sings the most when she filters the world through Shira’s musical mind. Despite the terrors Shira faces, Rosner shows how art — in addition to loved ones — makes life worth living.

For the most part throughout the novel, the threat of capture by Nazi soldiers implies life-threatening peril without Rosner explicitly writing about what would happen after their capture. With the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in recent years, this novel should be an obvious reminder that targeting citizens based on their religion, appearance or sexual orientation are human rights violations. Reading about this mother and daughter confined to a small space with irregular access to food and hygiene had me drawing comparisons to the conditions of migrant detention centers for modern-day asylum seekers in the U.S. Rosner invokes empathy for the parents who will do anything to protect their child when there are no easy answers for how to do so.

The novel is broken up into four major sections, each preceded by part of the story Róża tells Shira, as an allegory of what was to come for the pair. Months pass, as noted by the seasons and years in between chapters, and by the progress of Shira’s musical education. In addition to Róża’s stories and teachings of the alphabet, Shira clings to her mother’s hums of famous musical pieces. But their fraught time in the barn runs out. Rations are running low, Róża is fraught with guilt over sleeping with the farmer to extend their stay, and the final straw is when Nazi soldiers commandeer the barn for storage. Róża is back to square one and no place in town is safe for them to stowaway. How will young Shira survive a winter in the woods without shelter?

Rosner traverses the journey of their safety as if on top of a taught tightrope. The solution is one Róża approaches with heartbreaking uncertainty. Shira has the chance to enter a convent as an “orphan,” meaning she will be separated from Róża and forced to shed her Jewish identity. After losing the rest of her family, it goes against Róża’s every instinct to separate from Shira, even though she knows this is her best chance at survival. Little does she know that the stories she told Shira will be a source of resilience for them both.

As the nuns dye Shira’s dark hair, rename her as the Christian-sounding “Zosia” and teach her Catholic prayers, Róża is haunted by the discordant sounds of the hidden dangers in the woods and the spacious melody of her own anguish. She tries to summon stories of daisy chains to squash the feelings of regret over not finding a way to protect Shira by her side. Meanwhile, young Zosia is on a path to becoming a prodigy violin virtuoso, and she centers her mother at the heart of her passion.

Rosner sows seeds of hope and uncertainty for a page-turning conclusion. Both mother and daughter are in precarious scenarios where their safety could be compromised by an ill-timed raid by Nazi soldiers. But their desire to reunite guides them above all else and the power of music kindles a small spark of hope that they’ll find their way back to each other.
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This is the heartbreaking story of a mother Roza and her young daughter, five year old Shira who were both facing unimaginable circumstances in Poland during the second World War. The mother and daughter go on hiding in a neighbor’s barn. In order to keep her daughter silent, Roza tells her daughter a story about the Yellow Bird who sings for the child is forbidden to make any sound. 

The story was written so exquisitely that is both heart warning and heart breaking, during the most harrowing time in our history when monstrosities were happening. 

Jennifer Rosner’s debut novel about the mother and daughter relationship is one of the most gripping yet tender story I have read. I highly recommend this book for historical fiction fans for a moving story about memorable characters.
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Roza and her five year old daughter have been tucked away in their neighbors hayloft hiding from the soldiers that are going through rounding up the Jewish. Roza has seen her mother and father shot and killed in front of her. Her husband, Natan, was shot and killed after a week of hard work. Now Roza is trying to keep her and her daughter safe and alive. To keep Shira from thinking about all the bad stuff going on around them, Roza has come up with a story that she tells Shira every night and adds to it nightly to keep it going and interested for her. Roza has to stay quiet and for a five year old, that can be an impossible feat. Shira does a good job at it though. Shira also has an amazing talent for music and in the story that her mom tells her, she has made it to where there is a yellow bird that sings so Shira can tap out the rhythm on her leg and still let the music play in her head. 

Roza's neighbors have agreed to let her hide in the hayloft for a night or two at first because they do not want to get in trouble for hiding a Jew. When a night or two turns into many more, Roza is thankful. They bring her and Shira food and let them use a bucket for their facilities. This definitely gives you an idea of how the Jews had to hide and how risky it was for them during this time. 

I thought this was very well written and made you realize that a mother's love has no boundaries and knows no end. I felt for Roza and Shira as they were hiding and moving from one hideout to another. Such a crazy way to have to live.
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There are lots of stories about Jews hiding during World War II and sometimes I feel ‘If I’ve read one, I’ve read them all.” This book is different. A mother and daughter flee from their Polish home when the Germans capture the other members. They hide out for a long time in a barn. The description of living in silence as a mother and very young girl is so sad. When the Germans want the barn for storage the farmer and his wife convince the mother to send the child to a Catholic nunnery, where Zoshia as she is no called becomes enamored with the violin. For a while, the mother’s story of hiding in the forest and the child’s are told in separate chapters, then the chapters become melded together, then each is forced to go their own way. The final chapter set in New York City in 1965, is one of the best endings I’ve read.
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Historical fiction with just a dash of magical realism, The Yellow Bird Sings follows a Jewish musician mother and her prodigy daughter as they run from the Nazis. After her father's death the little girl, Shira, carries around her imaginary yellow bird.

A story of tragedy and hope and grief, laden with beautiful prose and heartbreaking text, this is possibly the best Holocaust book I've ever read.
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I was first drawn to this book from the cover then the description also intrigued me. This is a book set during WW2 and is about a Jewish mom and her five-year-old daughter. It tells of their determination to survive the unthinkable. 

The daughter has an imaginary little yellow bird that is in the entire story. She takes care of this bird and it the keep her company and gives her comfort during so may difficult challenges.

The daughter is a violin prodigy and music is woven throughout the entire story. 

The editing was a little rough at points which I think was a disservice to the author. There are transitions between paragraphs that are disjointed and takes away from the flow of the story. 

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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The Yellow Bird Sings is a really unique look at World War II. I have heard many stories of Jews hiding from Nazi soldiers. Hiding in attics, or basements, or closets.  I have never heard of people hiding in a hayloft, burrowing deep into the hay to avoid being seen. Or hiding in the woods and digging deep into the dirt to sleep and hide. I was captivated by the ways people tried to survive. 
At the heart of this book is the relationship between Roza and her daughter Shira. The bond, the difficulty and the love of these two felt real and at times was heartbreaking.
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Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children who were hidden from the Nazis during World War II, this is the heartbreaking story of a mother and her young daughter facing unimaginable circumstances that were unfortunately all too real. As a mother myself, it was excruciatingly painful to witness the life or death choices that Róza must make in order to protect her daughter, Shira. But stories like this are important reminders to all of us that in fact, yes, true horror does exist. 

Beautifully written, this is a harrowing and truly unforgettable exploration of one of the darkest realities in our recent history. From the Summer of 1941 to the Autumn of 1945, readers travel in stunned silence alongside mother and daughter as they attempt to survive the sudden upending of life as they knew it. As a five-year-old girl, Shira is constantly in motion and excited to rhapsodize about the world around her, yet Róza knows these wonderful sounds of childhood are noise that will only result in their demise. As a musical prodigy, Shira listens to the sounds around her, composing orchestras that vibrate through her body, and as a musician herself, Róza is rocked by memories of the music she and her husband once made. To calm Shira, and quite honestly herself, during so much stillness, Róza crafts the story of the yellow bird that sings. While the narrative largely focuses on the bond shared between Róza and Shira, the gut-wrenching realities of the war cut in like staccato notes shaking everyone out of any sense of normalcy they try to make even in such perverse times. 

The quest for survival drives even more life-altering decisions that echo their traumatic reverberations as life goes on. Yet, just as suddenly as everything was taken away, the yellow bird lands, returning hope and undeniable love.
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‘In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, […] The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of a piccolo; low-throated growls of the contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.’

THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS, the first book that I have read by Jennifer Rosner, I can honestly say I was speechless as reached the last page, with tears running down my face.

The way Rosner writes the ending in the last few paragraphs - the prose - is beautiful. I get chills every time I read her words that I so desperately want to share in a quote with you, but the experience needs to be your own.

I sit here now with tears in my eyes, as a mother, the loving bond between Róża and her daughter Shira - their story – inspired by true stories of Jewish children during World War II – are ones I will never forget.

THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS - Highly Recommend!

Thank you, NetGalley and Flatiron Books, for providing me with an advance eBook of THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS in exchange for an honest review.
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This story was beautiful, beautifully written and so fascinating, I could not put it down. A must read for anyone who loves World War II fiction based on true events.
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