Novel: Breaking Stalin’s Nose
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Target Audience: 9-12 years
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Year: 2011
Setting: Moscow; the late 1930’s (The Great Terror/Great Purge)
A Favorite Quote: “The red color of the Pioneers scarf is the color of our Communist banner and represents blood spilled for the cause of the Communist Party!”
My One Sentence Summary: Sasha admires his father, Stalin, and the communist party–but his entire world is turned upside down when his father is accused of treason and arrested.
What I loved about this book: The author draws heavily on his experience in Soviet schools, and as a result, the setting is incredibly authentic. Yelchin effortlessly captures the pageantry and propaganda characteristic of Stalin’s reign. The story is accessible for younger readers with its focus on Sasha’s idolization of his father and the father’s subsequent arrest—Sasha’s emotional upheaval is easy to identify and empathize with. The book is quite short, but it takes almost no time for Yelchin to provide the reader with a stark and haunting slice of life in Moscow at the onset of the Great Terror. Powerful black-and-white illustrations complement the text and add to the mood and tone of the novel.
Themes: Freedom vs. tyranny; life in a dictatorship; the importance of drawing your own conclusions and discovering truth for yourself rather than parroting what authoritarian figures tell you to think
Who should read this book: This book is an excellent recommendation for students who enjoy history and a great resource for social studies teachers.