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Summary and book reviews of The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

The Yellow Bird Sings

A Novel

by Jennifer Rosner

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner X
The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
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  • Published:
    Mar 2020, 304 pages

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter 1
Poland
Summer 1941

A brooding heat permeates the tight space of the barn loft, no larger than three strides by four. The boards are rough-hewn and splintery and the rafters run at sharp slants, making the pitch too low for Róza to stand anywhere but in the center. Silken webs wad the corners and thin shards of sunlight bleed through cracks. Otherwise it is dark.

Kneeling, Róza pats down a dense pad of hay for Shira to lie on. She positions her by the wall across from the ladder, then covers her with more hay. Róza makes a spot for herself in front of her daughter, angled so she can keep her eyes on the door. Her heart still hammers in her chest.

Not an hour ago Henryk's wife, Krystyna, barreled in to corner a chicken and discovered them crouching behind a hay cart. Róza swallowed a startled gasp and tightened her hold on Shira. Krystyna's eyes darted to the wall hung with tools—trowels and spades, shovels, a pitchfork—then she slowly backed out. A...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the significance of Shira's bird? How does it aid her? Do you think its original color, yellow, is important or telling? In what ways does the bird's evolution mirror or not mirror Shira's?
  2. In the barn, Różahas to keep Shira—five years old and a musical prodigy—silent and still. What are her most effective strategies? Do you think she would have an easier time if Shira was younger or older?
  3. When Róża asks Krystyna outright why she is helping them, Krystyna responds, "In God's eyes your child is no different than mine. She deserves every chance to live." What are Krystyna's motivations for harboring Róża and Shira and, later, for arranging Shira's transport to the convent? Do you think ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although the story revolves around a horrific time in history, it mainly centers on the beautiful relationship between a mother and her daughter. The story captivated me. Through difficult situations, separation and heartbreak, it remained sweet, hopeful and powerful (Sally D). The story tells of the bond between mother and child, their love of music, and their efforts to survive during the most dire of circumstances. In some ways, I found it reminiscent of The Pianist (Shelley C)...continued

Full Review Members Only (641 words).

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness
Rosner has a keen ability to elicit heart-wrenching emotion through her simple yet luminescent writing...Stories and music can be powerful forces in people's lives. In The Yellow Bird Sings, Rosner honors that truth through this exquisite tale, one that demonstrates how words and song have a timeless power to keep loved ones connected and their voices alive through generations.

BookPage (starred review)
In Shira and Roza, Rosner captures two souls in turmoil, chronicling their grief as well as their strength of will to overcome, their longing and even surprising triumphs…The Yellow Bird Sings keeps your heart in your throat, your eyes pricked with tears.

Publishers Weekly
Moving if unsurprising...This will offer few surprises to avid readers of Holocaust fiction.

Booklist
This stunning debut novel sings with the power of a mother’s love and the heartbreaking risks she’ll endure.

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Library Journal (starred review)
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.

Author Blurb Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and Before and After
The Yellow Bird Sings is a beautiful book in so many ways. Like Shira's imaginary bird, Jennifer Rosner's prose is lilting and musical, yet her tale of war's grave personal reality is gripping, heartrending, and so very real. Told beneath an overarching sky of the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter, this is a story readers will continue to ponder long afterward.

Author Blurb Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt
The Yellow Bird Sings finds beauty in the unlikeliest of places. Jennifer Rosner gives voice to the soaring truth that a mother's love can never be silenced, and that even the ugliest war cannot defeat the power of a nurtured imagination. This book is tender, brutal, and beautiful.

Author Blurb Alex George, author of the #1 Indie Next Pick A Good American
Music and love course through this beautiful novel, twin rivers of wonder. The Yellow Bird Sings is a powerful hymn to the resilience and determination of a mother's love in the face of the inhuman horrors of war. Jennifer Rosner has written a book that will break your heart, and then put it back together again, a little larger than before.

Author Blurb Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network
Room meets Schindler's List in The Yellow Bird Sings, a beautifully written tale of mothers and daughters, war and love, the music of the living and the silence of the dead. Jennifer Rosner is a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Imagine a mother hiding in fear of her life. Then imagine she is also hiding her lively daughter whose smallest sound may betray them. With wonderful tenderness and imagination, Jennifer Rosner evokes the dangers Róza and Shira face and how, in the midst of those dangers, love and music survive. A brilliant and transporting novel.

Author Blurb Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One Is Here Except All of Us
The Yellow Bird Sings is a captivating novel of the power of music, the human voice, and what we sacrifice in order to survive extraordinary circumstances. Absolutely riveting.

Author Blurb David Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women
In The Yellow Bird Sings, Jennifer Rosner has written an extraordinarily beautiful and moving novel of the human heart. It is a rich and poignant story of the enduring power of love and hope in the face of peril.

Reader Reviews

Dorothy Schwab

The Yellow Bird Sings- A Symphony!
“Beauty will save the world,” – The hope and optimism shared from mother to daughter. Roza and Shira are running for their lives; fighting the memories of the killing and devastation of families and homes. With the chilling descriptions the reader...   Read More

Mary Anne R. (Towson, MD)

The Yellow Bird
The yellow bird sings a song of hope,encouragement, and comfort in Jennifer Rosner's novel. The characters display the good,evil and mixed actions during WW2. The little girl,Zosia,strength and development is beautifully described as is the pain and ...   Read More

Jean B. (Naples, FL)

The Yellow Bird Sings
The Yellow Bird Sings is simultaneously heart breaking and hopeful A mother and her child survive the horrors of being Jewish during World War II. The child comforts herself with the imagined yellow bird as she and her mother hide and experience ...   Read More

Sally D. (Jacksonville, FL)

Absorbing story
The Yellow Bird Sings is a surprising novel. Although the story revolves around a horrific time in history, it mainly centers on the beautiful relationship between a mother and her daughter. The story captivated me. Through difficult situations, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Family Separation During the Holocaust

A Group of Orphaned Holocaust Survivors, 1944 In Jennifer Rosner's The Yellow Bird Sings, which takes place in Poland during WWII, Róza and her daughter Shira are forced to hide from the Nazis. After already losing other family members, Róza must decide whether or not to send Shira into hiding on her own in order to protect her. While members of Jewish families were often separated forcibly from one another after being arrested by German forces during this time, many parents also felt compelled to separate themselves from their children in order to better the children's chances of survival.

In some cases, separations would occur on the spur of the moment when a family was in imminent danger of being caught in a raid or roundup. Children whose parents were taken into ...

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