What are some interesting words from Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a lot of interesting words in Milkweed, including the title word itself, "milkweed." Some others are Jackboot, Stawki Station, Stopthief, runt, strawberry babka, lopped-off, resettlement, deportation, ghetto, locomotive, dried herring, flamethrowewr, cannibals, nickered (a soft breathy whinny from a horse) and cuckoo (an Eastern Hemisphere songbird immortalized in cuckoo clocks). I'll discuss some of these and explain their interest.

First is milkweed. Its Latin name is Asclepias syriaca. It is a herbaceous perennial with 140 species and is native to North America, among other places. Most interestingly, milkweed is the chrysalis ground for Monarch butterflies, the population of which is recently cut down by 90%. Several movements to save the Monarch request that people plant milkweed, having very lovely blossom clusters, in their gardens to give Monarchs shelter. Also interesting is that milkweed is poisonous, as are the butterflies that feed upon them.

Stawki Station was an actual train station just to the east of Warsaw, Poland, where Jews were boarded onto trains for their "resettlement," or transportation out of Poland to resettlement camps, which we now know as extermination camps or forced labor concentration camps.

Strawberry babka is a traditional sweet Polish coffee cake. Babkas are generally made with orange peel for orange babka, but strawberry babka is a common variation on orange babka. Other ingredients in this sweet, raised-dough coffee cake are raisins, rum and almonds. Coffee cake is so named because it is traditionally served for breakfast or morning visits along with coffee; hence, coffee cake: cake served with coffee.