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Breaking Stalin's Nose

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  8,400 ratings  ·  1,266 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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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  8,400 ratings  ·  1,266 reviews


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Tina Haigler
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Ok. I'm not going to lie. For a kid's book this is some dark shit. Maybe not for someone from another country but for me it was. It definitely opened my eyes to what life was like under Stalin in the Soviet Union and the people's mentality. It was fanatical, full of fear and paranoia, and oppressive. I mean yikes. Kids were pretty much brainwashed. Kids and adults lived in fear of being thrown in jail and shot as spies for the smallest of offenses. In turn they lived their lives as best they cou ...more
Lisa
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Inhabiting Books
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
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
Micah Ferguson
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
It was interesting to see how people lived in communist Russia, but there was some strange parts.
Izzy Smith
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
it was ok. It was weird. Good illustrations but a little weird.
Marsha
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
DaNae
I try not to question "the committee's" choices but this book flew across the room when I finished. It reads like a short story which should be featured on NPR's selected shorts. NOT and early chapter book.

Really, Schmidt and Ness didn't make the cut, but this got through?
Jacqueline
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Elizabeth
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So well done. I was even more impressed when I read the author’s note at the end of the book and learned that the story of a loyal Communist boy who realizes that the government he has idealized isn’t as awesome as he thought is mostly autobiographical. It’s a short book with really interesting illustrations (also done by the author) and it is such a good picture of a child’s view of Communism. I loved that as an adult I could both sympathize with the child and see what he couldn’t see about his ...more
babyhippoface
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jennifer
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Betsy
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This was rather dark for a children's book. What I like is that this paints a story of a child's POV during Stalin's reign. This doesn't seem to be a very popular topic/ period and place in history for children. Which probably makes sense.

What I don't like is that it's simply black and white, with communists as the bad guys who will try to brainwash and trick people into ousting the most disliked members. Even children's books should have some semblance of gray areas, to help with understanding
...more
Edward Sullivan
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Lesley
A young boy that believes the lies of stalin. Sad that this was the life of so many people!
Janete
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I re-read and heard the audio again in one sit, because my vacation will end at 31 January.
Claire
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really adorable story.

I am trying not to let my biases make me react to it any more than a story about vandalism can actually allow.
I mean, have you ever broken anything in an academic setting? Not I.

After all, here's this little snot Sasha, and the whole point of the book is that he goes against the corruption of bureaucracy.
(view spoiler)

Do you actually l
...more
Amber Scaife
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
A boy living in Stalin's Moscow and following the rules like a good little brainwashed kiddo idolizes his father and loves Their Leader until his father gets arrested and he starts waking up to the nightmare in which he lives.
This one seems pretty dark for a Newbery Honor Book, and certainly doesn't have what I'd call a happy ending. It's an interesting look at that time and place, though.
Steph
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Everything fits together to create a masterpiece. A heart wrenching narrative, tragic actual historical events, and haunting illustrations makes this one of the top middle grade books I have ever read. I am curious to how an innocent child reader's mind would view the grim tale. A valuable read for all ages!
Steph
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Zaichik loses his father under a system propped up by fear, self-preservation, and oppression. His father is arrested, and he hears enough rumor to begin to suspect that his father "turned in" his mother. The father is then ultimately arrested for betraying the state. The aunt rejects the nephew out of fear that contact with Zaichik will lead to her own arrest. In essence, Zaichik becomes homeless.
Not a "feel good" novel, but certainly a quick read.
The book is appropriate for 4-8th grade.
The b
...more
Laura
This book was great! It really shows what happened back then in Russia.
Alex  Baugh
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: randomly-reading
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
Terri
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
Jodi
This is terrifying. It's just a glimpse into Communism and eerily reminiscent of Nazism; I feel sick to my stomach knowing that this was and is still real in parts of the world. I agree with Peter Sis, who is quoted on the cover of this book as saying, "An important book for all people living in free society."

For mature readers.
Kathleen Duffy
Great look into the totalitarianism under Stalin. This topic isn't focused on as much as it should.
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
Danielle
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sasha has spent his whole life waiting for the day he can become a Young Pioneer. As a good Communist, he wants to follow in his father's footsteps; joining the Young Pioneers is the first step. Yet, the night before his ceremony, Sasha's father, the best Communist he knows, is arrested. At school, his day gets worse, as he breaks the nose off of a bust of Stalin. Over these two days in Sasha's life, we as readers experience not only the prejudicial and paranoid actions of "good Communists" but ...more
Marisa Ewing
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-lit
Breaking Stalin's Nose is a story about Sasha Zaichik, a school-aged boy, who lived in Russia during Stalin's rule. Sasha's dream is to become a Soviet Pioneer and become a true communist. His dad works in the state security and on the eve of Sasha's induction into the Soviet Pioneers his dad is arrested and taken away. The next day at school Sasha accidentally breaks the nose off of the Stalin statue, the school enters a state of emergency seeking out the student guilty of this crime. Once a st ...more
Amy
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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