Form and Content
Uri Orlev’s The Island on Bird Street is the inspiring story of an eleven-year-old boy’s fight to survive alone in the devastated Warsaw Ghetto while he waits to be rescued by his father. Through the eyes of the narrator-protagonist, young readers experience the best and the worst of human behavior in this realistic work of historical fiction. The novel’s authenticity is genuine since it is partially based on the author’s own experiences during World War II. Orlev spent the years from 1939 to 1941 hiding in the Warsaw Ghetto with his mother and younger brother. The Nazis killed his mother and imprisoned him and his brother at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
In a moving introduction, Orlev asks readers to pretend that they live in a place where they are persecuted because they are different in some way from others. He reminds his readers, “It doesn’t have to be the Warsaw Ghetto, because there are other ghettos, too.” A map of the ghetto provides a visual aid in identifying the major points of action. Chapter headings, each with the imprint of a bird, effectively summarize each chapter. A table of contents is included.
Hillel Halkin has provided a smooth, seamless English translation of the original novel in Hebrew. The novel is easy to read, literate, and full of believable dialogue. Orlev’s tone is neutral, almost dispassionate at times.
Alex, the protagonist, learns his father’s secret: Father has...
(The entire section is 543 words.)