Breaking Stalin's Nose
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Breaking Stalin's Nose

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  4,339 ratings  ·  807 reviews
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 to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published September 11th 2011)
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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...more
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
Cheryl in CC NV
Intense, with marvelous art that makes it even more so. Do not read this at bedtime - I had nightmares. Be careful about which children you recommend it to - some are not ready for the themes, even if they are generally reading beyond 'illustrated early chapter' books.

The most important thing to realize is that the story is true. I don't know about these *exact* details and characters, but as the author notes, for those of us who have not learned history, this kind of thing happened *twenty mil...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
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
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
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
Marsha Wiese
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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.
"Between Shades of Grey" by Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite reads of the past year or so. I loved that it taught the reader about an aspect of the World II era that most know little about. At the same time that Hitler was executing millions in Eastern Europe, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of approximately 20 million individuals in Russia. "Breaking Stalin's Nose," a Newbery Honor book by Eugene Velchin, looks at this time in Russian history. Velchin, having been raised in Russia by a...more
Today's article in the Washington Post read "Russians rally against Putin: Tens of thousands — about 80,000 in Moscow — face below-zero temperatures to keep up pressure for fair elections and honest government." Something that would be unheard of during Stalin's regime. This insightful story provides readers just a glimpse what it was like to live in those days of terror.

The remarkable story, with engaging illustrations, sheds light on the past, yet is so relevant for today even whether events...more
Jim Erekson
When I read one of these disillusionment stories, it's so predictable for it to be about the Soviet bloc. The fact that it's historical fiction doesn't change this, because the themes are still there. I remember when Laura Apol suggested we consider that Lois Lowry's The Giver might actually be about our own society instead of some other, it blew open the way I read dystopia novels. So the big question is, does a novel like this help me consider the ways I blindly buy into the party line or does...more
Kelly Hager
Sasha Zaichik lives in Communist Russia during Stalin's regime. He's hoping to be a Young Pioneer and the day before his ceremony, his father---one of the best Communists of all!---is arrested and dragged off in the night by police. Sasha knows it's a mistake but at the same time, how can the police make mistakes? Everyone knows that if you're arrested you did SOMETHING. So he tries not to think about it. But then things start falling apart for him, too. He's supposed to carry the banner during...more
ATOS Book Level: 4.6
Interest Level: Middle Grades (MG 4-8)
AR Points: 2.0
Lexile: 670
Word Count: 15128

I have mixed feelings about this story, mostly because it's a Newbery Honors Book which heightens my expectation for a book. The story itself is fine, and if I had just picked up the book with no preconceived notions I may have given it a three star, but I am (again) confounded by selections made by the Newbery committee.
The setting is that of the Soviet Union during the time of Stalin. This may...more
Karen Henspeter
o Your full name: Karen Henspeter

o APA citation: Yelchin, E. (2012). Breaking stalin’s nose. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

o Genre: Historical fiction

o Format: Print

o Selection process:
Top 10 historical fiction for youth. (2012). Booklist, 108(16), 74.

o Review:
Young Sasha Zaichik, whose American mother died and whose Soviet father works as a Communist spy during the Cold War period, wants to be a Young Pioneer more than anything else. He admires his father deeply and idolizes Stalin, believing th...more
Naomi Kenorak
When I was a teen, I read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which delves deep into the Soviet forced labor camps, and other similar books, both fiction and nonfiction, by Russian and Chinese authors, that gave me a close look at the worst of communism in both the Soviet Union and Cultural Revolution China. For kids too young for those books, this book is perfect. I read it out aloud to my late elementary-school-aged, early-middle-school-aged children so that we could discuss it to...more
Sasha Zichik is excited to finally join the Soviet Young Pioneers, for then he can become a great communist, just like his two heroes: his dad, and Joseph Stalin. One night, before Sasha’s Young Pioneers ceremony, his father is taken away by soldiers and Sasha’s life is turned upside down. Before his ceremony, Sasha takes a hard look at the life lead in Russia and wonders for a moment if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Really? This got a Newberry honor? Blech. This started out ok for me, but...more
Angela Bailey
Title / Author / Publication Date:
Breaking stalin's Nose. / Eugene Yelchin. / 2011.

Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction.

Format: Book - print. 176 pages.

Plot summary:
"In the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, ten-year-old Sasha idolizes his father, a devoted Communist, but when police take his father away and leave Sasha homeless, he is forced to examine his own perceptions, values, and beliefs" (NoveList).

Considerations or precautions for readers advisory:
communism, father and son relationships,...more
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
I read about this book in a newsletter of some sort and checked it out from the library for my daughters. My 11 year old really enjoyed it (she's a big historical fiction fan, so this was no surprise) and I kept wanting to make time to read it myself. I renewed it from the library a time or two and finally got around to reading it this weekend. I'm glad I made time to do so.

Breaking Stalin's Nose is eye-opening for both the reader and the narrator. Sasha Zaichik is a young boy who knows exactly...more
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
Historical fiction, WWII is Russia, Beginning novel grades 4 and higher

This novel takes place over 2 days and is a quick read with all of the illustrations. Matching this book with Shades of Gray would help students understand the context of the story better.

I agree with Peter Sis that this is "an important book for all people living in free society." Children and young adolescents (and even adults) most likely do not realize the amazing freedoms we have in the USA until we read/examine what ha...more
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
Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin (2011)
Genre: Fiction
Format: Book
Plot summary:In the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, ten-year-old Sasha idolizes his father, a devoted Communist, but when police take his father away and leave Sasha homeless, he is forced to examine his own perceptions, values, and beliefs.
Considerations or precautions for readers advisory (strong language, sex, death, religious overtones, violence, etc.): No special considerations
Review citation (if available):Schiavul...more
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