The Island on Bird Street Critical Context - Essay

Uri Orlev

Critical Context

For Uri Orlev, survivor of the Belsen-Bergen death camp, the Holocaust was his childhood. Through his writings for young people, he re-creates the past as a warning to future generations. The Island on Bird Street is an excellent addition to Holocaust literature for young people. When originally published in Israel, the novel received the 1981 Mordechai Bernstein Award, the highest award for children’s literature given by the University of Haifa. It was also cited as a 1982 International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Honor List Book for Israel. The novel has been widely used in the Holocaust curricula in middle and secondary schools.

Another work written by Orlev and translated by Hillel Halkin is Lydia, Queen of Palestine (1995), a novel based on the life of the Israeli poet Arianna Haran. Ten-year-old Lydia describes her childhood misadventures, her distress over her parents’ divorce during World War II, and her life after the war in Palestine. In Orlev’s The Lady with the Hat (1995), seventeen-year-old Yulek, the only member of his immediate family to survive the German concentration camps, joins a group of Jews going to live on a kibbutz in Israel; unbeknownst to Yulek, his aunt living in London is looking for him. In The Man from the Other Side (1991), fourteen-year-old Mark Marek and his grandparents, who live on the outskirts of the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II, shelter a Jewish man just before the Jewish uprising.