Milkweed was influenced by Jerry Spinelli’s "obsession to understand" the Holocaust growing up and personal accounts Spinelli read before publishing the novel.[25] In an interview Jerry Spinelli says he feels one of his earliest memories are of looking at pictures of the Holocaust. Milkweed pods a major theme in the novel seems to have also come from Spinelli's childhood where he use to blow milkweed pods near his home. In his interview with Nadine Epstein, Spinelli explains his hesitance to write a novel based on the Holocaust on feeling "unqualified" since he had no personal connections with the Holocaust other than caring about it. Once he decided to proceed in writing a novel concentrated on the Holocaust, personal accounts like Elie Wiesel gave Spinelli insight.

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