National Jewish Book Award Finalist
A Massachusetts Book Awards Honor Book
A Best Historical Fiction Book (Goodreads)
A Must-Read Book (Massachusetts Book Awards)
"Rosner’s exquisite, heart-rending debut novel is proof that there’s always going to be room for another story about World War II....This is an absolutely beautiful and necessary novel, full of heartbreak but also hope, about the bond between mother and daughter, and the sacrifices made for love."
—The New York Times
“Jennifer Rosner hooks readers from the onset…Readers will have empathy for Róza and Shira, and admire Róza’s courage and persistence as she faces life without her daughter, releasing her to save her, like a bird freed from a cage.”
"Prepare to have your heart broken."
"The Yellow Bird Sings is at the top of my reading list."
“A study of music, imagination and the power of a mother’s love.”
“Satisfying and sweet…Love, empathy and fear—as well as a yellow songbird—wind through this tale of an unbreakable bond between mother and child. The novel demonstrates Ms. Rosner’s deep understanding of the terrors of the Holocaust.”
“The book will help you escape the drudgery of solitude in your own home—and remember past beacons of hope during troubling times.”
“A riveting page-turner that will delight music lovers and please members of any book club.”
“The power of a mother-daughter bond is beautifully portrayed against the backdrop of 1941 Poland.”
—WBUR’s The ARTery
“Written in beautifully understated prose and tinged with magical elements, The Yellow Bird Sings is about the bonds between mothers and daughters, and the enduring power of music and storytelling even in the most devastating of times.”
“The Yellow Bird Sings pulled at all my heartstrings, then installed some more just to pull at those, too. Perhaps the most heartbreaking and moving WWII book since Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief…Melancholic and musical, Rosner’s narrative encapsulates the perseverance of hope even when it feels like hopelessness is all that’s left.”
“Rosner challenges the Holocaust with a touch of magic (the yellow bird appears throughout), clarifying a dangerous time and place even as she offers a vibrant, affecting portrait of the mother-daughter relationship.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“In Shira and Roza, Rosner captures two souls in turmoil, chronicling their grief as well as their strength of will to overcome, their longing and even surprising triumphs…The Yellow Bird Sings keeps your heart in your throat, your eyes pricked with tears.”
—BookPage (starred review)
“This stunning debut novel sings with the power of a mother’s love and the heartbreaking risks she’ll endure.”
“A World War II story with a Room-like twist, one that also deftly examines the ways in which art and imagination can sustain us…This is a Holocaust novel, but it’s also an effective work of suspense, and Rosner’s understanding of how art plays a role in our lives, even at the worst of times, is impressive.”
“Moving…A wrenching chronicle.”
“A beautiful book in so many ways. Like Shira’s imaginary bird, Jennifer Rosner’s prose is lilting and musical, yet her tale of war’s grave personal reality is gripping, heartrending, and so very real.”
—Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours and Before and After
“Music and love course through this beautiful novel, twin rivers of wonder. Jennifer Rosner has written a book that will break your heart, and then put it back together again, a little larger than before.”
—Alex George, author of A Good American
“Desperately moving and exquisitely written. If you only read one book this year, make it The Yellow Bird Sings. A beautiful story with achingly memorable characters, for me Jennifer Rosner’s novel stands alongside The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Code Name Verity as one of those profoundly special World War Two novels you know you will never forget.”
—AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs. Bird
“A beautifully written tale of mothers and daughters, war and love, the music of the living and the silence of the dead.”
—Kate Quinn, author of The Huntress and The Alice Network
“A captivating novel of the power of music, the human voice, and what we sacrifice in order to survive extraordinary circumstances. Absolutely riveting.”
—Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One Is Here Except All of Us
“An extraordinary debut novel, brimming with beauty, hope, and heart.”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Last Train to London
“A brilliant and transporting novel.”
—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“An extraordinarily beautiful and moving novel of the human heart. It is a rich and poignant story of the enduring power of love and hope in the face of peril.”
—David Gillham, author of City of Women
DEBUT As Nazis descend on Poland, rounding up Jews and sending them to concentration camps, Roza and five-year-old daughter Shira survive by hiding in the barn of a grudging neighbor. To stay safe, they must stay still. But musical prodigy Shira shimmers with music, so Roza tells her the story of an enchanted garden where a yellow bird does the little girl's singing for her: "The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon." But the danger doesn't abate, and soon Roza realizes that she must send her daughter away to save her. As Shira is hidden in plain sight at a convent, where violin training reveals the virtuoso she is to become, Roza vanishes into the forest, where she initially survives on her own and finally finds love and meaning at an encampment of Jewish resisters. But will she ever see Shira again? VERDICT Memoirist and award-winning children's author Rosner challenges the Holocaust with a touch of magic (the yellow bird appears throughout), clarifying a dangerous time and place even as she offers a vibrant, affecting portrait of the mother-daughter relationship. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/19.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Rosner’s moving if unsurprising debut novel (after the memoir If a Tree Falls) follows a mother and daughter’s struggles to survive the Holocaust. In 1941, after Jewish Róża’s parents and husband are killed by the Nazis in Poland, she finds refuge for herself and her daughter, five-year-old Shira, in the barn of Henryk and his wife, Krystyna, gentiles who had patronized her family bakery, though Róża is only able to extend their stay by sleeping with Henryk. Rosner is at her best in the book’s earliest sections, as she conveys Róża’s efforts to balance comfort for Shira with the need to keep their presence in the barn a secret. Róża cleverly enlists Shira’s cooperation in keeping quiet by spinning stories of a young girl and a yellow bird that can voice the musical compositions written by the child. After a year of shelter, Nazi troops tell Henryk they will appropriate the barn, and Róża reluctantly consents to a plan crafted by Krystyna for her and Shira to escape separately. With Shira hidden in a convent and Róża fleeing through the snow-covered woods, Rosner switches between points of view to craft a wrenching chronicle of their separate journeys, though the conclusion suffers from schmaltz. This will offer few surprises to avid readers of Holocaust fiction. (Mar.)
Rosner's debut novel is a World War II story with a Room-like twist, one that also deftly examines the ways in which art and imagination can sustain us.
Five-year-old Shira is a prodigy. She hears entire musical passages in her head, which "take shape and pulse through her, quiet at first, then building in intensity and growing louder." But making sounds is something Shira is not permitted to do. She and her mother, Róża, are Jews who are hiding in a barn in German-occupied Poland. Soldiers have shot Róża's husband and dragged her parents away, and after a narrow escape, mother and daughter cower in a hayloft day and night, relying on the farmer and his wife to keep them safe from neighbors and passing patrols. The wife sneaks Shira outside for fresh air; the husband visits Róża late at night in the hayloft to exact his price. To keep Shira occupied and quiet the rest of the time, Róża spins tales of a little girl and a yellow bird in an enchanted but silent garden menaced by giants; only the bird is allowed to sing. But when Róża is offered a chance to hide Shira in an orphanage, she must weigh her daughter's safety against her desire to keep the girl close. Rosner builds the tension as the novel progresses, wisely moving the action out of the barn before the premise grows tired or repetitive. This is a Holocaust novel, but it's also an effective work of suspense, and Rosner's understanding of how art plays a role in our lives, even at the worst of times, is impressive.
A mother and her child-prodigy daughter struggle to survive the Holocaust by telling stories and remembering the power of music.