The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel

Written by Jennifer Rosner
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

A mother’s unconditional love and fierce desire to protect her child is at the heart of this tragic and beautiful novel set in German-occupied Poland during World War II.

In an attempt to escape the Nazis, a Jewish woman named Róza and her young daughter Shira find shelter in the loft of a barn. Despite the family’s initial reluctance, they let them stay for many months, even though Róza has to “pay” for her stay by yielding to the farmer’s every demand. Shira, whose name literally means “song” in Hebrew, has an innate love of music. Despite having to remain utterly quiet all the time and live in a space barely big enough for an animal, Róza tries to create a world of beauty, love and music for her daughter. She weaves stories for her daughter and tells her that when Shira cannot speak, she should compose music in her head, and that is when the yellow bird sings in her place. When Róza has an opportunity to send her child to a place of safety, that decision will have life-changing consequences for mother and daughter.

The book pays homage to all of the children who were hidden during the Holocaust era. In some ways, the book is reminiscent of the movie Room, in which the mother creates an imaginary, full life for her child while in captivity. Similar to how Róza attempts to utilize her and her daughter’s suffering as the foundation for beauty, the author skillfully transforms a heartbreaking subject into a lyrical, beautiful story of love, loss and hope.