March 2010, Barrington Stoke
62 pages, Paperback
Interest age: 9-12 years
Reading age: 8 years
Nayuleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Book cover blurb
The German army have invaded Russia.
All the adults are busy doing war work.
Ivan and his sister and baby brother are left on their own.
The German army is all around the city.
Can they survive?
This time I didn't even add the exclamation mark! (see Black Death review for that reference) What's more, one of the characters does say "A seige!" How cool is that? They didn't run through the streets yelling it. Neither did I yell it either. I did think 'Catapaults!' (this is written with sugar-induced hyperactivity) and food piles. The story wasn't quite like that though.
I studied a bit about the second world war at school. I didn't learn a lot about what happened in Russia - the focus was more on Britain. I didn't realise that children like Ivan and his siblings had to help out with the war effort too. This book taught me a lot about the war, just by following their story.
Their family is small, and Ivan is in charge mostly because his father is gone. His mother has to go and help with the war effort, leaving Ivan and his siblings on their own. I found myself tearing up at the hardships they faced. Russia in winter in times of prosperity isn't always the easiest place to live in. Russia in the middle of a war offers a pretty bleak outlook for the citizens. I found the story had an emotional impact not just because the work/lack of food was a problem, but because so many people were affected by it. Also, in areas around the world today people are affected by war in ways that aren't so different to Ivan's family.
The surprising part, was that with all the fear and hardship, there was hope. The people in Will's town discovered a way to keep hope alive.. It shows that all skills were (and can be) useful in the war, even if at the time it doesn't seem like it. I felt more hopeful about Will's family's outlook with that particular event. It's important to look for hope in times of darkness. Hope keeps people going. It gives them something to fight for.
There's a short interview with by Ann Jung and the illustrator Alan Marks (who did a great job in conveying the hardships and emotion in the illustrations) before the story starts (which seemed a weird place, because usually interviews are at the end).
If you like the sound of this, check out another historical read, Black Death by Martyn Beardsley