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A Year Without Mom

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,393 ratings  ·  271 reviews
A Year Without Mom follows twelve-year-old Dasha through a year full of turmoil after her mother leaves for America.

It is the early 1990s in Moscow, and political change is in the air. But Dasha is more worried about her own challenges as she negotiates family, friendships and school without her mother. Just as she begins to find her own feet, she gets word that she is to
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Groundwood Books (first published September 24th 2015)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,393 ratings  ·  271 reviews

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Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
A Year Without Mom was a nice little read on this windy, cold, snowy day.

The narrative was interesting--it was told in present tense, which I wasn't expecting, and made it feel like it wasn't a memoir but a fictional story. The cool things about memoirs is that the author looks back on their life and decide how to share their life with their readers. But since this was told in present tense it have that looking-back, thoughtful, possibly nostaglic quality that a lot of memoirs (especially graph
Dave Schaafsma
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gn-women
Found in the teen YA section of my library, this is more of an illustrated story of one year in a girl's life when her Mom was in the U.S. while she stayed with Grandma in Moscow. Set during the 1991 coup d'etat against Gorbachev, it could have had something very interesting to tell. Hey, I was actually there in Moscow that same year, for a couple weeks, so I was interested in what it had to say about that! But there was nothing; not much happened that year, except her first crush.

The title real
3.5 stars. I really liked the minimal use of colour, and the charcoals, greys and blacks forming the bulk of each page.
Krista Regester
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sweet coming of age story that takes place in Russia. Dasha is a twelve year old girl who has to deal with difficult situations and making mature decisions while her mother is away for a year in America. This is a very sentimental and bitter sweet graphic novel with great descriptive illustrations.
Gary Anderson
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
At first I was thinking, "Except for how it's set in Russia, I've read this storyline many times. And the artwork is too drab." Then it hit me. Yes, A Year Without Mom has a familiar plot--adolescent girl is separated from parents and has to navigate school, friends, and the future more or less on her own--but that Russian setting is what makes it so relevant. Young people all over the world have similar issues and problems like those experienced by young Dasha. Set the story in Russia, and all ...more
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Year Without Mom lives outside the box of whatever kind of kids’ book box you want to try to put it in. It’s like a really long picture book for much, much older kids; it’s also graphic novel length and age group, but doesn’t have panels and instead has small blocks of text alongside full-page illustrations; and it’s a historical memoir, too.

While her story takes place in 1990’s Russia (rooted in such a specific time and place), it never feels that far away from the reader. Of course, we see
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Hmm. Well, I LOVED the art. It's beautiful, and it made this book worth reading for me. But the story...wasn't. First of all, there's really no reason to know it's set in 1990s Russia because this book gives zero insight into what it was like to live then. I guess it's an OK picture of what it's like to be a 12-year-old girl, but I would have liked to see a wordless version of this because the words are really just something to step over on your way to more beautiful illustrations.

But there are
I breezed through this little book in a couple of hours. If you're just skimming the surface, it's an easy read, but I wanted to savor it, spend some time with each page and let it reveal to me the details that might remind me of my own childhood in '90s Moscow.

Overall - and this is entirely, entirely subjective and doesn't reflect on the validity of the book at all - I didn't relate to Dasha's story as much as I expected to, and ultimately that was a disappointment. When I first heard about th
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dasha is twelve when her mother leaves Moscow to go to school in America. Dasha is left in the care of her grandparents. It is the early 1990s and things are changing in Russia. Dasha though is more interested in her first crush on a boy, her friendships, and her trip to Germany for Christmas. She misses her mother terribly and has to figure out how to have a life without her there. Dasha’s life reaches a crisis when she fails an important test because she is having problems with the boy she lik ...more
An interesting look into a year in the life of a Russian girl whose mother moves to the US to get a better education. There's friendship squabbles, crushes, tension with family, and then, of course, the Russian politics of the early 90s.

I'm curious how young readers will take this one. There's nothing bad about it, but there's also nothing particularly noteworthy if you're not familiar with the Cold War nor about what was going on in Russia during that time period (I only know very little mysel
Melissa Chung
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Giving this graphic novel 3 stars. It was okay.

This graphic novel is about a 12 year old girl named Dasha who lives in Russia. Her whole family is into writing. Her grandmother writes, her mother is in advertisement. They, as a family go to writing retreats every summer. Dasha's mother has been excepted to do her masters program in advertisement in America. She leaves Dasha with her grandparents.

This book is about the year Dasha spends away from her mom and what she does in the meantime. It is w
Julia Mcknight
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
In a spare and detached but very likeable voice, Tolstikova tells the story of a year in her life at the age of twelve. The story tackles timely as well as timeless issues like transcontinental families, coming of age, friendship, the first crush, moving to a new country, coping with change. The illustrations, while minimal, convey all the emotions that go unexpressed in the narrative but lie just below the surface. There is an admirable restraint, an elegant simplicity throughout that I found r ...more
Nov 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
VERY nice art work.
Well designed.
The story/memoir is dull to the extreme.The activities of and 'crises' faced by this girl are so mundane and typical as to be soporific.
I can't help thinking that if this book were reflecting on a North American girl of this period/age level/family background instead of one living in the Soviet Union, this publisher would not have remotely considered publishing it. And even though the book is set in the Soviet Union (and the transition to Russia is part of the ti
Marta Boksenbaum
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, childrens-lit
This is a very impressive graphic novel. A snapshot of a young Russian girl's experience when her mother goes to America to pursue a master's degree, the story follows a year of living with her grandparents. The stark, sparsely colored illustrations portray our protagonist's emotions through contrast and line. This story has less plot, and more of an exploration of a character and her state of being. This intelligent novel does not pander to tweens, rather it trusts them to be intelligent and em ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I requested this book from the library because it was suggested to me as a graphic novel that I might enjoy, so I was a little bummed to see that it actually is not comics, but heavily illustrated prose with 2 or 3 instances where word balloons are used. The drawings are very nice, and I enjoyed the way the book looked more than the content, which wasn't offensive in anyway, but was just mostly unremarkable. It's a light, quick read with some nice art; I'm sure that younger readers may connect w ...more
Jun 13, 2021 added it
This was...fine! I was expecting a little more than a chronicle of a year in a Soviet child's life, which felt (from this rendition) surprisingly similar to an American teen's life at the time - the central issue seems to be a crush.

In a nyt interview, the author said:

“I wanted it to be sad,” Tolstikova, now 36, says of the book. “I wanted to convey this experience of missing somebody without hitting you over the head with it, like how you feel when you don’t know exactly what it is that is cau
Rod Brown
May 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
A memoir about a twelve-year-old girl that feels as if it were written and drawn by a twelve-year-old girl. Between the numerous pages devoted to her girlhood crush are a few references to the fact that she is living through the collapse of the Soviet Union. I might have let this dull and pointless book off with two stars if the creator hadn't decided to put "I say" and "she says" tags beneath every word balloon. That's just annoying as hell. ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this very quick and short graphic novel. The art was great and there was the perfect amount of text. I docked a star because I would have loved to see an extension to the ending we got. I still enjoyed the ending but would have liked to see a bit more than what we did. Overall, a very enjoyable graphic novel about a small Russian girl that had me glued to the pages.
Ade Yang
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really like the girl---Dasha's life. Leave mom and home is an difficult thing. ...more
Bilan M. Atayaah
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
I love the artwork and the quality production of the graphic novel itself but the story was really lacking. I expected a more in depth look into the process of immigrating to the US or even into the relationships between mother and daughter once they'd been separated but nothing. All very surface level. Really disappointed with the limited narrative as I felt it could have been explored in a much richer way. ...more
Raven Black
Feels like a journal of the ups and downs of Dasha's life the year her mother left to study in America. While political upheaval is happening in her country, Dasha is more worried about boys, friends, school and art school. Simple text and art. The color red is used to highlight things. But other than one or two places with blue being used, the book is blacks, whites, and grays. ...more
Nikki Romano
Tolstikova wrote a very easy to read story with beautiful and unique illustrations. This was a graphic novel that I think would be appropriate for 4th grade - 8th grade. This did not have harsh squares where the illustrations were confined to but rather where the illustrations spilled onto the whole page or took up the whole page in some cases. Without the illustrations and details I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much.

It is told in the perspective of Dasha a 12 year old girl goi
Nikki in Niagara
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
First, let's start by saying this isn't a graphic novel. The pictures do not tell a story they only illustrate what the text has already told. It's either an illustrated chapter book or a picture book with a lot of text. I'm not particular in pigeonholing books but the publisher's write up on the back calls this a "graphic novel" which is simply misleading and incorrect. I was on a graphic novel awards committee and everyone immediately dismissed this as *not* a graphic novel.With that out of th ...more
Not too bad, but doesn't really fit in a clear category so would be hard to market to patrons. It *really* bothered me that Tolstikova kept the "she says" and "he says" in there when she was using word bubbles. It dramatically screwed with the flow of the story and made what could have been a more successful back-and-forth comics/prose hybrid. The story itself was all right. There's nothing terribly remarkable about it except for the cross-cultural element, and we don't really get a lot of cultu ...more
Vinayak Hegde
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This is a simple story about a girl growing up in her teens while her mother is away in the USA to study. all of this happens while the USSR is breaking up and there is turmoil in Moscow. However the backdrop of this change is not reflected in the story much and it explores the events and feelings of the little girl as she navigates her school life and friends.

The artwork is good with usage of watercolors with sketch-pens and crayons. The author/artists uses a upward lateral angle in many of the
Sarah Nelson
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I liked this. Though quiet, this graphic novel gives us a rare little window into a child's life in Russia. When mom leaves for graduate school in the United States, 12-year-old Dasha is left behind in Moscow to navigate a year of challenging friendships, school exams, and a crushing crush on a boy named Petya. The drawings are simple, but evocative and full of feeling. ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was a very good book The major theme of the book was being lonely because she has to go a whole year without her mom! also she thinks her friends are going to a different school. One of the main messages is that you have to overcome stuff in life and be strong if something happens like it did to Dasha the main character
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Charming little novel illustrating the life of a 12 year old by Dasha Tolstikova. Was I ever that young? Probably never that earnest! :) Soothing grayscale illustrations with accents of red, beautiful to drink in with your eyes.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
It was pretty good and had an interesting art style. Although after I finished it I felt like there wasn’t enough. Like I needed more of a story.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would really recommend this for any young girl going through the dark period of 7th grade... captures all of those emotions perfectly!!!
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