Monday, September 17, 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Velchin

Sasha Zaichik is ten years old and has been waiting for the day he can join the Soviet Young Pioneers since he can remember. Comrade Stalin is his hero, and Sasha is devoted to him and the Communist Party. But now that the day has arrived, everything is in upheaval. His father, hero to the cause, has been arrested, and suddenly everything that Sasha thought he knew about the Soviet government might just be a lie. When disaster strikes during his preparations for the Young Pioneers rally, Sasha realizes he has more to worry about than Breaking Stalin's Nose

This story, written by Eugene Velchin, is a masterpiece. Velchin himself left the former Soviet Union when he was 27 years old, and it is clear that he really has the knowledge and the feeling behind the atmosphere of the time and place. The illustrations are vivid and really capture the power, the glory, and the fear that so captivated and motivated the youth of the former Soviet Union. Nothing is more powerful than the word, and the propoganda machine that was the Stalin machine is captured in the plot of this tale as we see through the eyes of our young protagonist. Getting inside the head of Sasha as he dreams of being a member of the Soviet Young Pioneers can really help us all understand how attractive that party was to so many, and how the party really used fear and intimidation to control any member who might get out of line. We all think we would never turn against our neighbor, but this book shows us just why someone would be motivated to tell lies against others in order to help their own families survive.

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