Book review: Breaking Stalin’s Nose

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene YelchinBreaking Stalin’s Nose
written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
140 pages
Historical fiction
Newbery Honor award: 2012
Young Hoosier Book Award nominee: 2014-2015
Interest level: grades 4-8
Reading level: 4.6
5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the only books for youth that is set during the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, 1923 to 1953, which makes this a very important work. When I polled 3rd and 4th grade classes, no one had heard of Stalin, nor could they tell me what communism was. This historical fiction work, appropriate for grades 4-8, lets us enter the life of 10-year-old Sasha, a boy who loves Stalin and communism and prides himself on having a father who is in Stalin’s State Security. Suddenly, all he knows is turned on its head when his father is arrested and he is alone on the streets.

Kids don’t need to have an understanding of communism or Soviet history to get pulled into the story. Concern for the main character will grip them, and it reads like dystopian fiction — think The Giver, Divergent, Hunger Games. My hope would be that after reading the story, they also read the author’s note at the end. Yelchin has crafted this story after his own experience growing up in Russia.

Additional material
The book has a website that accompanies it, and provides further experiences into communist life and the Soviet Union.

A special, personal message from Eugene Yelchin about Breaking Stalin’s Nose.

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