by Eugene Yelchin
Sasha has waited for the moment he could finally become a Young Pioneer for almost his entire life, all ten years of it. His dad is his hero, a guard for the Kremlin who roots out anyone who doesn't support Communism. He thinks Stalin is the best leader that Russia could ever have, and writes him letters telling him so. But all that changes when his father is taken by the police on suspicion of being a spy for the West. Sasha must choose between being loyal to his father or supporting his beloved Communism. He realizes that perhaps everything he had believed in isn't quite what he was told.
What I liked most about this book is the way Sasha evolved from being a boy who idolized a system and saw no flaws in it to one who was able to see in a quick period that no system could ever be perfect. Many children who grow up in dictatorships or other types of systems know no other way of being, so they accept that their system is the best with no qualifiers. Sasha sees Communism as the absolute best, and Stalin as the best provider they could have (I liked one scene where he is given a carrot as a treat and thinks that he is lucky because American kids have probably never had a carrot.) The book is well written and provides some history with a story that is engaging for children (though depressing for adults who know more about Russian history.)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 4th Grade