Gift Guide

The Doll with the Yellow Star


A tender story about the power of love in the face of loss

Nine-year-old Claudine doesn’t want to leave her much-loved home in France to go live in America, not without her parents. But she knows about the shortages, about the yellow stars Jews must wear, and about Adolf Hitler. And she knows that there are some things she needs to do even when she doesn’t want to. It’s wartime, and there is much that is different now. There are more things that Claudine will lose to this ...

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A tender story about the power of love in the face of loss

Nine-year-old Claudine doesn’t want to leave her much-loved home in France to go live in America, not without her parents. But she knows about the shortages, about the yellow stars Jews must wear, and about Adolf Hitler. And she knows that there are some things she needs to do even when she doesn’t want to. It’s wartime, and there is much that is different now. There are more things that Claudine will lose to this terrible war. But not everything that is lost must be lost forever. Here is a moving story about lost and found lives, and the healing power of love.

When France falls to Germany at the start of World War II, nine-year-old Claudine must leave her beloved parents and friends to stay with relatives in America, accompanied by her doll, Violette.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This solemnly straightforward chapter book follows Claudine, a Jewish French girl, and her beloved doll Violette as her world is turned upside down twice: first when the Nazis occupy France, and then again when the eight-year-old must leave Papa and Maman behind in Paris to seek safety with relatives in America. McDonough (Anne Frank) depicts Violette as both a witness to and an embodiment of Claudine's tumultuous experience. The doll, the girl's prized possession, becomes a symbol of Claudine's carefree, pre-war life, and then a steadfast companion as the noose tightens around the Jewish community-and, finally, both a casualty of war and its miraculous survivor. While the prose slips into woodenness at times, the events keep the pages turning, and McDonough's emotional acuity always shines through. The author is at her best in the chapters set in America (in one heart-wrenching passage, the girl asks her Aunt Adele whether she must continue to wear the yellow star), and the life she and her father slowly rebuild after the war without Maman, who was murdered by the Nazis. Although the illustrator seems more at ease in portraying Claudine as fragile rather than the girl of quiet but enormous resilience portrayed in the story, Root's spot art and full-page illustrations convey a simple poignancy. Ages 7-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
How quickly life can change. Claudine celebrates her eight birthday with Maman and Papa in their apartment in France. The war has already wrought changes but they are still together, they have food to eat and Maman and Papa even manage to give Claudine a beautiful doll. The doll is named Violette and as the threats of Hitler and the Nazis grow stronger, the doll is Claudine's comfort, especially when her friends desert her. For Claudine and her parents must wear the yellow star proclaiming that they are Jewish. Claudine sews a little yellow star on the inside of Violette's cape. When Claudine's parents send her to the United States where she will be safe, Violette is lost when there is a shipboard fire. The story ends on a hopeful note and does not overwhelm the young reader with scenes of brutality, but the inhuman treatment of one group toward another, and the power and ruthlessness of Hitler and his followers, is evident in the struggles and heartache a young girl and her family endure. 2005, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 7 to 10.
—Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Eight-year-old Claudine is a Jewish girl living in occupied France during World War II. Her loving parents try to keep her life as normal as possible, and even manage to buy her a lovely new doll for her birthday. But after the Germans decree that Jews must wear a yellow star, things begin to change for the worse, and soon Claudine's parents decide to send her to America to live with her aunt and uncle. She convinces them to let her take Violette, on whose clothes she has also sewn a tiny yellow star. But at the end of the voyage, her toy gets lost, and Claudine wonders if she will ever see it or her parents again. Her journey, adjustment to life in America, and eventual reunion with her father make up the bulk of this story, but what is missing is any true sense of what it feels like to leave behind everything that you know and face an uncertain future in a strange new place. Although nicely written and generously illustrated with watercolors, many events in the book feel contrived, and the reunion of Claudine with her doll in the end seems less of a miracle than merely a device to wrap things up. Vera W. Propp's When the Soldiers Were Gone (Putnam, 1999) is a better choice for showing the impact of the war on children separated from their parents. A well-meaning yet additional purchase.-Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Claudine, a French Jewish girl, goes to live with relatives in America during WWII, shortly after her eighth birthday. As a gift, she had received Violette, a doll onto whose cape she had sewn a tiny yellow star, the hated symbol all Jews had been forced to wear. After a shipboard fire, Claudine loses her belongings, including Violette. Eventually, her father joins her in New York and brings the terrible news of her mother's death. At war's end, Claudine and Papa return to France, hoping to reclaim their lives, but they no longer feel at home there. She and Papa move back to New York and Claudine, a skilled writer, continues to pen stories. Then comes a wonderful surprise. This tender offering for younger readers would have been more affecting had McDonough not told it from an adult's viewpoint; her coolly detached present-tense voice distances readers from Claudine's tale. Root's gentle, delicate paintings balance the grim realities. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805063370
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of many acclaimed children’s books, including The Dollhouse Magic. Born in Israel, Ms. McDonough grew up in the United States and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.

Kimberly Bulcken Root has illustrated more than fifteen books for young readers, including Holt’s reissue of Understood Betsy. She lives in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.

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