Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Breaking Stalin's Nose 
by Eugene Yelchin
160 pages
Elementary Historical Fiction

Book Jacket Summary 
Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:
The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism. 
A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.
But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway.  And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night. 
This moving story of a ten-year-old boy's world shattering is masterful in its simplicity, powerful in its message, and heartbreaking in its plausibility.

My Thoughts
An interesting read about the life of a boy in Stalin's Russia. Sasha is proud to live in communist Russia and of his father who works for Stalin. But when his father is arrested Sasha starts to doubt what he has been told his entire life. The pictures in the book are full of scary authority figures who loom the children in the story and it accurately represents what Sasha must have felt. These were the people who could have you thrown in an orphanage or even prison. 
I can understand why this was on the Newbery Honor Book List for 2012. It was a look into a past that we American's do not always comprehend. It is a world that Eugene Yelchin understood and saw the after affects as a small boy. His author's note tells how millions of people were arrested to keep the citizens afraid and compliant to Stalin's reign. It is a good book to teach a background lesson on what Russia would have been like through the eyes of a child. Children may not understand the all or nothing atmosphere of nationalism that Sasha has but it will give good context for future history lessons. It is a good book and one that should be recommended for students who are into history and are looking for a book about someone who lived through the experience.

Book Pairings
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis


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