Monday, March 21, 2011

What’s this “communism” stuff about, Dad?

Between_Shades_of_Gray.jpgEvery now and then I mention the Soviet Union, or nuclear war, or communism in general, and my kids — all born after the fall of the wall — always ask me what I'm talking about. What wall? Where?

It's hard to explain.

Now Meghan Cox Gurdon in the WSJ Weekend has provided us with a very good start on a summer reading list.
Until recently, virtually the only accounts for English-speaking children were Anne Holm's 1965 novel, North to Freedom (also published under the title I Am David), about a Bulgarian boy who escapes from a Soviet concentration camp, and Esther Hautzig's slim but excellent memoir of her Polish family's exile to Siberia, The Endless Steppe, which was first printed in 1970.

But perhaps now the subject is beginning to get its due. The past few years have seen the arrival of several books for young readers depicting harsh communist realities. These include The Wall, Peter Sis's 2007 picture-book memoir of his youth in Cold War Prague; Anne Fine's 2008 young-adult novel, The Road of Bones, set in a vaguely Stalinist era; and Haya Leah Molnar's 2010 chronicle of her girlhood in communist Romania, Under a Red Sky.

Now comes Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, a superb though grueling novel for readers over the age of 13. ...
Read the whole review if you like, and then order the books.