Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Ten-year-old Sasha Zaichik knows how perfect life is. He is lucky enough to live in the U.S.S.R with his father, who has the privilege of working for Stalin’s secret police. Sasha has been studying night and day to become a Soviet Young Pioneer, a youth organization dedicated to Stalin’s word and the spread of Communism.

Suddenly on the eve before his induction into the Young Pioneers, police burst into Sasha’s apartment and arrest his father! Everywhere Sasha turns to for help, he is cast aside and left to fend for himself. Sasha knows that once Stalin hears of this grave mistake everything will be straightened out! This harrowing night begins Sasha’s two day journey, where he begins to see the real truth behind the Soviet Union.

Eugene Yelchin, author of Breaking Stalin’s Nose, lived in the Soviet Union before moving to the United States. Though he has worked as an illustrator and artist for years this is Yelchin’s first novel. A combination of text and illustrations, this 2012 Newbery Honor book showcases Sasha's perilous journey to free his father.  His use of beautiful and dynamic black and white illustrations helps add a higher level of intensity to Sasha’s plight. The imagery is not graphic, but young readers will still be able to understand the seriousness of the situation. At only 140 pages, Breaking Stalin’s Nose is a great way to introduce children to the horrors of this period in history. This is not a story with a happy ending, but one of truth.

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