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Breaking Stalin's Nose

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  5,159 ratings  ·  877 reviews
One of Horn Book’s Best Fiction Books of 2011


Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:
The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.

A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.
But now that it is finally time
...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (first published September 11th 2011)
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Middle Grade Novels of 2012
20th out of 336 books — 620 voters
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Best Children's Historical Fiction
141st out of 501 books — 568 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lisa
Jan 09, 2015 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Danna and Riley for history class.
I thought this was amazing. I could really feel the place, it was eerie. The illustrations matched the mood entirely. This was a very thoughtful work. The story was NOT run-of-the-mill. Very original and fast-paced. This book is sophisticated enough for adults, and simple enough for children (who are ready for this subject matter). I was really blown away by this. I highly recommend it for pretty much anyone.
Megan D. Neal
This book flew invisibly past my radar. I hadn't heard of it or even seen it until I read that it won the Newbery Honor. Obviously, I had to rectify that, so when my latest batch of books came from the library yesterday, full of this year's award winners, I wanted to read this one first.

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Sasha is a fervently loyal Stalinist, who is excited to become a part of the Young Pioneers (Stalin's youth organization) and extremely proud of his father, who works for the State Security
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Terri
Yelchin's debut novel examines life in Stalinist Russia through the eyes of Sasha, a young boy who idolizes Stalin. He believes the lies and half truths he has been told and rationalizes anomalies that don't fit his vision of Stalin's glorious leadership until the night before he is to join the Young Pioneers, the night his father is betrayed and arrested, the night he begins to see the painful truth about his father, his friends, and his idol. The explicit theme is shared by a substitute teache ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This book reminded me of Morris Gleitzman's Once, in that both main characters are boys who are very naive about the political situations in their countries. In Gleitzman's book it's the Nazis in WWII Poland; in Yelchin's book it's Stalin's Russia. Young Sasha considers himself a loyal supporter of Stalin and a good Communist like his father. On the eve of being inducted into the Young Pioneers, everything changes when his father is arrested. Suddenly he is alone, forced to look at everything ar ...more
Amy
This was a fantastic read.
Yelchin does a tremendous job of putting the reader in the middle of Stalin's Soviet Union through the eyes of the young narrator. Sasha is on the verge of becoming a Young Pioneer and is bursting with pride. His father is a high official and though the two live in what we would consider poverty, they are considered privileged.

Everything changes when Sasha's father is arrested. The boy's fear and outrage are beautifully described as is the horrors of communism and what
...more
Alex Baugh
More than anything, Sasha Zaichik, 10, wants to become a Young Pioneer in Stalin's Soviet Union and a good Communist like his dad. Comrade Zaichik, who works for the State Security or secret police capturing enemies of the state, is a true Communist hero, even receiving a medal personally pinned on by Stalin himself.

However, when Comrade Zaichik is arrested by people from State Security in the middle the night before Sasha's Young Pioneer ceremony, he suddenly finds himself homeless, an orphan o
...more
Jennifer
In Breaking Stalin’s Nose (2011), author Eugene Yelchin takes readers into the suspicious world of Joseph Stalin’s Russia, where neighbors turn in neighbors, teachers turn in students and even family turns in other family members. The story is told from the perspective of 10 year old Sasha Zaichik who is a devoted communist and is on the eve of achieving his lifelong dream, to become a member of the communist youth group, the Young Pioneers. His devotion to Stalin and the communist ideals are ch ...more
Tara Crump
Breaking Stalin’s Nose
A young boy, Sasha, growing up in Moscow during Stalin’s reign yearns to be a young pioneer. He adores Stalin and the life communism has allowed him to have. One night his father is arrested due to report given by a jealous housemate and Sasha sets out to correct things by personally telling Stalin that his father is loyal to the communist cause. Unable to reach Stalin, Sasha decides to go about his day as he normally would and go to school; this day is especially importan
...more
Jacqueline
This book was a very quick read and when I say quick I mean the author barely gives anyone, reader and characters alike a chance to breath. Taking place over a period of two days, Sasha's life if torn apart when his father is arrested and everything he knew about the world he grew up in is called into question.

I never felt like I got to know anyone in the book, not Sasha, his father or the people around them. The author basically points out who the bad guys are, who the good guys are and makes
...more
Jennifer
The good:

-The idea of a children's book set in the Soviet Union
-Great pencil drawings by the author from interesting perspectives
-Possible educational/discussion tool for readers young and old about conformity, bullying, fear and right vs. wrong
-I'm glad that Yelchin made this novel to "expose and confront that fear [passed on from generation to generation"

The bad:

-I didn't feel anything while I was reading this book, which baffles me since the subject matter itself is not only interesting, but
...more
Beth
This fast-paced story follows 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik during a pivotal two day period of his life. The book opens with Sasha writing a letter to his beloved Comrade Stalin, expressing his joy at his upcoming acceptance into the ranks of the Soviet Young Pioneers. But after his father is arrested, Sasha’s eyes are gradually opened to the fact that things aren’t right in his world.

The first person narrative allows us to share in Sasha’s experiences: the optimism and hope he finds in Communism,
...more
babyhippoface
Sasha wants nothing more than to be a member of the Young Soviet Pioneers. Sasha's father works for Stalin's State Security--secret police--and Sasha wants to be just like him. Stalin himself pinned the order of the Red Banner on his Sasha's father's chest and called him "an iron broom purging the vermin from our midst." If only Sasha understood exactly what that statement meant, and who was counted as "vermin".

Sasha's is the voice of innocent, blind loyalty. Throughout the book he makes statem
...more
Ann Wang
Once in a blue moon, I read a book that takes my breath away. I read (in one sitting) one such children’s historical fiction recently – Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. I first knew Yelchin as a talented illustrator, so was glad to see his drawings illuminate his story here.

In this simple chapter book, a depth of insight is revealed, not only about Russia in the early to mid 1900’s, but insight into all fear-driven societies. And we should never be so arrogant as to think it can’t happe
...more
Heather
I've not read anything quite like this before.

The only similarities I've got are:

1. The feeling of being unable to trust your neighbors and the need to love the leader are very similar to themes in the children's and teen's books I've read about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

2. Our young hero has a bit of the charming naivety of John Boyne's (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) and Morris Gleitzman's (Once) protagonists.

Other than that, everything is new. I've never read a book about the Soviet
...more
Marsha
My daughter, an elementary media specialist, read this book before me and in her review she wondered how the students would react to this book as it depicts a piece of history about which they will probably know little to nothing. I do agree with her. The cover is enticing, but I don't know that elementary students will get the book at all. However, I think this is a curriculum connection for teachers and a really good read aloud. Discussion to enlighten students about the history of the story a ...more
Cathy
Communist Russia isn't quite the "hot topic" in kid's fiction, but this is a must read. Black and white illustrations show raw emotion and feel as historic as the Stalinist era. A young boy, suffering away- happily- dreams of being a Pioneer- a model young communist. He truly believes all the hype (savoring a raw carrot, considered a rare treat, he wonders if the poor kids in capitlaist countires have ever even seen one!) The events take place over 2 days, life changing events that shake the cha ...more
Marcie
Feb 06, 2012 Marcie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Marcie by: ALA
Shelves: ya
This may well be the most political book I have read in years, possibly ever. As I was reading I had to read aloud page 112 "What 'The Nose' so vividly demonstrates to us today," says Luzhko, "is that when we blindly believe in someone else's idea of what is right or wrong for us as individuals, sooner or later our refusal to make our own choices could lead to the collapse of the entire political system. An entire country. The world, even."
Her response was "This from a children's book". I think
...more
Abby Johnson
I honestly really liked it much more than I thought I would. This quick-paced portrait of a starry-eyed boy in Communist Russia drew me in from the first page and I devoured almost the entire book over my lunch break. But I wonder about audience? It seems to me that a child would need a great deal of background information about the Communists to get a lot out of this book. I can definitely see why the Newbery Committee honored it as distinguished - I've never read anything like it and I think i ...more
Lana Jackson
At first, this book caught me off guard. A first-person point-of-view, Sasha, a young Russion boy, talks about his loyalty to his leader, Stalin, and his desire to help his country move forward into Communism. Sasha's interactions with his father, neighbors, teacher, and school mates give an enlightening view of a people dominated by fear.

An easy, light read of a profund period in Russian history. Thank you, Eugene Yelchin.
Marybeth Batie
Taking place in the Soviet Union during the 1950's, Sasha’s dad is one of the best communists, and he is supposed to become a Young Soviet Pioneer himself. Then, unfortunately his dad is arrested for being accused of being an enemy, he breaks a kids nose with a snowball, and he breaks off the nose of a statue of Stalin. He knows that if he is caught he will be arrested as an emeny as well. This historical fiction novel focuses on themes like coming-of-age, power, and justice. It also focuses on ...more
Andrea
Such a genius of a book! Soviet History is barely mentioned in public schools so I think this is an excellent and unique choice to read and DISCUSS with children (4-12th grades). We are a nation of immigrants. This book, written by in immigrant, wonderfully shows why some people come to our USA to escape political and social oppression injustice. Thank you Yelchin! Write more!
Edward Sullivan
Great story about a young boy's disillusionment with Stalin's violently oppressive regime in the Soviet Union. The age group this book is written for will need historical context to fully appreciate the story but it is well-suited for reading aloud and group discussion. In an afterward, the author discusses his own experience growing up in the Soviet Union.
Paige
"Breaking Stalin's Nose" by Eugene Yelchin is the story of Sasha Zaichik, a 10 year old Russian boy who can't wait to join the Young Soviet Pioneers, "the most important step in becoming a real Communist, like my dad." Sasha believes in "Comrade Stalin" and his leadership until a series of events cause him to question this belief.

I read this book immediately after reading "Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys, another book that takes place during Stalin's reign. I was so moved and affected b
...more
Marisa
He broke Stalin's nose.

This story follows a little boy named Zaichik, who has idolized Stalin, wants to follow in his father's foot steps and become a Young Pioneer - devoted to Stalin, the Communist Party and Communism. After his father is arrested, by the same government he worked for, he can't seem to decide whether he should continue believing in the Communist government and renounce his father or if he should let this go.

Yelchin has written a fictionalized historical memoir, based on his o
...more
Laura5
There is a lot from this book that just stays with you... what a window into a world a knew very little about.

This may be one of those books that becomes a 5 star book for me after time and more reflection.
Kiera Burnett
Summary and Critique:
Breaking Stalin’s Nose is the story of a devout communist boy growing up in the USSR. When his father is taken into custody following the death of his mother, Sasha is forced to reconsider views he once held close. Through a series of unfortunate events, Sasha sees the flaws in communist practices. Interestingly, the author’s note describes how this is very much his own story in some ways as he too had to question his beliefs and ultimately decided whether or not to leave hi
...more
Donalyn
A boy who has been brainwashed by Communist propaganda his entire life, learns the truth about his hero, Stalin, and the Soviet government.
Kayla Davis
This book tells the story of a young boy named Sasha, who is living in communist Russia during the time of Stalin's reign. He is eager to become a Young Pioneer and follow in the footsteps of his father who is a a member of the secret police, but everything gets turned upside down when his father gets arrested unexpectedly and sent to prison. Soon, Sasha, sees the ugly truths of communism and must choose between communism and loyalty to his father. This was such a unique and engaging read! It ga ...more
Heather Hilliker
The Soviet Union is a place where communism reigns, and in this story a young boy named Sasha Zaichik longs to follow in his dad’s footsteps to become one of the prestigious Young Soviet Pioneers for his nation (Yelchin, 2011). Sasha’s father is declared an enemy of the people though and Sasha is left alone and confused regarding communism (Yelchin, 2011). One day at school, Sasha breaks off the nose of a Stalin statue, and is thereby also susceptible to being jailed or even killed (Yelchin, 201 ...more
Madison Young
Breaking Stalin’s Nose tells the story of a young boy named Sasha who grows up in Communist Russia during Stalin’s reign of power. His life is flipped upside down when his father is arrested for criminal activities. Sasha is left on his own after being rejected by his Aunt’s family and is forced to revaluate his life. For the longest time Sasha wanted to grow up to become a strong Communist and he was going to do that by first joining the Young Pioneers, which was the first step towards becoming ...more
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