The Island on Bird Street Critical Essays

Uri Orlev


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Set in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II, The Island on Bird Street is thematically a coming-of-age story as a young boy matures under barbaric conditions. When his father is taken away by German soldiers, Alex must survive on his own. The love of his father, who promises to return, gives him the will to survive. The novel describes hope, bravery, and courage against a backdrop of hate and violence. Readers will strongly empathize with Alex as he stares wistfully at life beyond the ghetto walls and reaches out to others for love and companionship. The novel is a personal odyssey through a childhood disrupted by the savagery of war as good battles evil in a world gone mad.

The action-filled plot unfolds in chronological order. One young boy must evade the combined forces of the German soldiers and those Poles who support the extermination of the Jews. At the same time, he is battling nature for survival. From the moment that he escapes the German soldiers until his climactic reunion with his father, Alex survives one crisis after another. The young reader is constantly bombarded with strong emotions and compelling action. Even older readers will enjoy the fast-paced action and adventure.

Young people will identify with the hero of the novel, eleven-year-old Alex. Although he is a Polish Jew, he is a universal character. He laughs and cries; he loves and hates. Isolated from others, he fills his time reading and playing with his pet. The reader...

(The entire section is 605 words.)