Yelchin’s illustrations are expressive and really help to bring this Soviet Russian historical fiction novel to life.
by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and Company, 2014
234 pages : illustrations ; 19 cm
Chapter book, historical fiction
YHBA intermediate grade nominee, 2016
Interest level: grades 4-8; reading level: 4.4
Lexile measure: 630
4 out of 5 stars
Arcady’s Goal is a historical fiction novel that is set in Soviet Russia in the time of Stalin. This is not a historical time period that children know much about, so Eugene Yelchin’s books are windows into an unknown, but real, world.
Fewer than a dozen photographs of my family survived the turbulent history of the Soviet Union, the country of my birth. The photograph above inspired this book, and it is the one that I most treasure: the Red Army Soccer Club in 1945. The captain of the team is in the middle row, third from the right. He is Arcady Yelchin, my father.
Arcady is a 12-year-old boy living in a children’s home in Russia. His parents have been declared enemies of the state, and even though the children don’t understand what that means, they live with the shame of their parents’ actions. Arcady is gifted at playing soccer, and he uses this skill to earn extra bread rations and establish respect in a tough and bleak life.
One day some inspectors come to examine the children’s home and Arcady and his soccer skills capture the attention of Ivan Ivanych, who comes back to adopt Arcady. Arcady’s life after that is about learning to trust and love. The story is suspenseful, exciting, and full of moments of heartbreak and warmth.
I listened to the audiobook version, and while it is well done, I would recommend reading the print version. Yelchin’s illustrations are expressive and really help to bring the story to life for readers.