Amazing Artists Children's Books

Amazing Artists Children's Books

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There are no limits to our imagination, only limits to us being understood.
Open your hearts and welcome the gifts of our creative contributions to the world.

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Book Title & Alexandra's Review

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

8th Grade and Up

On a spring morning in 1986, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work – Chernobyl – has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who have always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother’s secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they’ve wished for: a best friend.
But how far would you go to save your best friend’s life? Would you rick your own?

Told in alternating perspectives among three girls – Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941 – this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.

 

Told in alternating perspectives among three girls – Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941 – this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.

 

I cannot believe that this book is targeted toward middle schoolers. I would not have been able to handle a book like this back in middle school. So much in one story. Nuclear disasters, child abuse, communism, the Soviet Union. Everything in this story would have either gone over my head or scared the heck out of me.

 

It’s nice to find a book about a historical event that I know nothing about. Even though the story starts with the Chernobyldisaster, the bulk of it is about what life is like under Soviet restrictions. The answer: Terrifying. People had no rights, especially children. They were constantly scared of saying the wrong thing because the secret police might be spying on them. They were taught to never question the government or ask questions, period. They even believed that eating cucumbers and drinking milk, mineral water, or vodka could cure radiation poisoning. I could understand the milk for minor exposure, but what were the cucumbers supposed to do?

 

I figured I would review a book about child abuse one day. I just didn’t think it would also be a historical fiction. From what I can tell, this is a realistic representation of the thoughts and feelings of a young child suffering from parental abuse. It broke my heart how Oksana believed she was bad and deserved to be punished.It isn’t until she is shown genuine kindness does she realize how cruel her parents were to her.

 

Outside of WWII, I didn’t realize there were other times in history when people were so hostile toward Jewish people. I’ll never understand why there is so much hatred towards Jewish people or any people. Most of the accusations Oksana’sfather made towards Jewish people were complete nonsense, like how Valentina’s father “stole” his promotion. Let’s all be clear that this is not a good enough reason to hate someone.

 

At first, I wasn’t on board with the parallel narrative of Rifka/the grandmother’s escape during WWII. I liked hearing the grandmother’s backstory and why she does the things she does but all the jumping back and forth between 1986 and 1941 was a bit confusing.

 

Final thoughts: There are many hard to pronounce words, so I recommend listening to the audiobook.

 

Given the unfamiliar geography, it would have been nice if a map had been included because I have no idea where any of these places are.

 

This is one of those books where the title doesn’t make sense until two-thirds of the way into the story.

 

And off-topic, I’m hoping Lauran Tarshis writes an I Survived book about the Chernobyl disaster someday.

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Rip to the Rescue by Miriam Halahmy

Middle School It’s 1940, and Nazi bombs are raining down on London. Thirteen-year-old Jack navigates the smoky, ash-covered streets of London amid air raid sirens

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