Breaking Stalins Nose

Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin

Historical Fiction
Commonsensemedia.org Rating: 12+

Tomorrow is a big day for Sasha Zaichik. It is a day he has been waiting for his entire life. Tomorrow he will become a Young Pioneer in the Communist Party. He goes to bed knowing that tomorrow his dad will tie on his red scarf and will be proud of him. He even writes a letter to Stalin, thanking him for his wonderful childhood. In the middle of the night, a doorbell rings 5 times. 5 times means that someone is ringing for them, not the other 12 families living in that apartment. The secret police come and take his dad to the infamous Lubyanka Prison. As the next day unfolds at school, Sasha loses his blinders to what the Communist Party is doing. Family members turn in each other as do schoolmates, clawing to be the last one not being sent to prison or executed.

This is a heavy subject told in the voice of a child. The author’s family lived through Joseph Stalin’s years of Terror. After the author immigrated to California, he realized that many didn’t know of that over 20 million murders were committed by Joseph Stalin. It is simply written but illustrates a difficult subject to describe. How far will people go to save themselves? Would you turn in your wife, the mother of your only son, if you were threatened by the State? Sasha is ten years old. Most 10 year olds probably wouldn’t understand what is not being said in the book, nor could they discuss the politics of what was happening. I agree with common sense media that waiting until age 12 would make a more profound impact on a child.

Yelchin, E. (2011). Breaking Stalin’s nose. New York: Henry Holt.

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