White Bird by R.J. Palacio is an award winning historical fiction graphic novel written in 2019. The story is about Sara Blum, a Jewish girl in hiding for survival in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. She also happens to be the grandmother, Grandmère, of Julian Albans, Auggie Pullman's tormentor in Wonder and Auggie & Me.
There are many themes present throughout the novel White Bird including the obvious theme of the Holocaust: Family, Friendship, Prejudice, Courage, Kindness, Allyship and more. Students can explore theme in a novel by identifying a theme and creating an image and caption depicting an example of it from the text.
The white bird appears when Sara imagines herself flying high in the air, happy with her parents. When she hides in the barn, she imagines flying above her mother who has been sent to her death in Auschwitz. When Julien is killed by the Nazis, Sara imagines his soul rising to heaven.
The evil prejudice of the Nazis against the Jews results in millions murdered and families, towns, and countries shattered. There is prejudice against Julien who is tormented for his disability from Polio. The bullying he receives mirrors the bullying Auggie received at the hands Sara's grandson.
WHITE BIRD THEMES, SYMBOLS, AND MOTIFS
Most of White Bird takes place during WWII and illustrates the evil of the Nazis and the devastation they wreaked on Europe. At the end, the author points out refugees fleeing catastrophic wars today and appeals to humanity not to ignore their suffering.
While Sara is in hiding, she realizes her role in the torment Julien received because of his Polio. She never stood up for him or called him by his real name until he helped her escape the Nazis. The author shows how kindness and empathy defeats fear and hatred.