The Children's Book Compass

Breaking Stalin’s Nose

Posted on: October 7, 2011

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Velchin.  (2011).   154 pages.  Henry Holt.  Grades 5 and up.  Novel: Historical Fiction.

In his Author’s Note at the end of this riveting story, Velchin writes, “. . . his (Stalin’s) legacy endured in the Russian people.  They had lived in fear for so long that fear had become an integral part of their part of their very beings.  Unchecked, fear was passed on from generation to generation.  It has been passed on to me, as well.  This book is my attempt to expose and confront that fear.”  Velchin’s attempt is an achievement.  He tells the story of a young boy, Sasha, who idolizes the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, and dreams of meeting him.  The novel begins with Sasha explaining how Stalin is a “great Leader and Teacher” and his own father is a hero and part of the secret police.  The story unfolds over just two days as Sasha’s dreams are dashed.  His eyes are opened to the cruel Soviet system when his father is arrested;  he is ousted from his school and becomes homeless.  Black pencil drawings by the author enhance the menacing tone of the book.  Youngsters need to read this book to begin to understand contemporary Russia.  Connect this with another book about a dictatorship, The Composition by Skarmeta.

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