Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Sasha is a proud member of Stalin's Communist Soviet Union. He can't wait to join the join the Young Pioneers and pledge his allegiance to Stalin and his country. He wants to make his father, a member of the secret police, proud. But then his father is arrested. Was he set up by a devious neighbour? It all must be some kind of terrible mistake. Alone, with his father arrested and his mother dead, Sasha tries to find a way to convince Stalin that his father's arrest is just a big mistake. But along the way Sasha learns many hard truths about his father, his life, and his hero, Stalin.

My favourite part of this book is how it plays with perspective. This shows up literally, as the perspective in the illustrations is sometimes skewed. Adults loom scarily over children in images that look like something out of a nightmare. Of course, the entire book (which takes place over a very short period of time) looks at how Sasha's perspectives change. He develops a deeper understanding of his father, of Stalin, and the world. Yelchin's afterward about Stalin and the USSR can help readers to put the story in its historical context. I hope Breaking Stalin's Nose's status as a Newbery Honor book brings it a larger audience.

Check out Eugene Yelchin's website to see more of his illustration and work.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Stalin's Nose by Rory MacLean
Seven Hungry Babies by Candace Fleming

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