SOLDIER X

Almost 16 years old in 1944, Erik Brandt finds himself on a German troop train headed for the Eastern Front in Russia. Because his mother was born in Russia, he is bilingual and has volunteered to be an interpreter. What he and his fellow teenaged recruits find is that they are thrown into the front line of a battle near Tarnapol as part of an infantry division. Wounded in the trenches, Erik changes clothing with a dead Russian soldier and finds himself in a Russian field hospital feigning amnesia and constantly worrying about his Russian accent. In the weeks that follow, he gains assurance and friends and proves useful as an orderly. He is almost comfortable and less apprehensive until the moment that he spills hot oil on himself and cries out in German. The young Russian girl who hears him, Tamara, says nothing, and later becomes his companion as together, on foot, they flee a German offensive. Walking west through the Ukraine, facing danger and starvation, they use their increasingly effective survival skills and miraculously are taken in by a Czech woman who lives alone in her grand, war-damaged estate. Erik and Tamara grow to love each other and she stays faithful to him even as he is seriously wounded by American soldiers. Based on the lives of the author and his wife, this harrowing tale opens and concludes with the words of the adult Brandt. It is a compelling, graphic, and bloody depiction of war from the viewpoint of a raw recruit who is neither a Hitler fanatic nor a convert to communism. He simply and movingly records the daily horrors of living in a battlefield and his determination to survive and live freely. (Historical fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-88863-X

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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LYDDIE

Abandoned by their mother, whose mental stability has been crumbling since her husband went west, Lyddie and her brother Charlie manage alone through a Vermont winter. But in the spring of 1844, without consulting them, the mother apprentices Charlie to a miller and hires Lyddie out to a tavern, where she is little better than a slave. Still, Lyddie is strong and indomitable, and the cook is friendly even if the mistress is cold and stern; Lyddie manages well enough until a run-in with the mistress sends her south to work in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, thus earning a better wage (in a vain hope of saving the family farm), making friends among the other girls enduring the long hours and dangerous conditions, and expanding her understanding of loyalty, generosity, and injustice (she already knows more than most people ever learn about perseverance). Knowing only her own troubled family, Lyddie is unusually reserved, even for a New Englander, With her usual discernment and consummate skill, Paterson depicts her gradually turning toward the warmth of others' kindnesses—Betsy reads Oliver Twist aloud and suggests the ultimate goal of Oberlin College; Diana teaches Lyddie to cope in the mill, setting an example that Lyddie later follows with an Irish girl who is even more naive than she had been; Quaker neighbors offer help and solace that Lyddie at first rejects out of hand. Deftly plotted and rich in incident, a well-researched picture of the period—and a memorable portrait of an untutored but intelligent young woman making her way against fierce odds.

Pub Date: March 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-67338-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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FORGOTTEN FIRE

Bagdasarian’s moving story of the little-told horror of the Armenian genocide is based on the recorded account by his great uncle. The narrative follows Vahan Kendarian from age 12 to 16, from a somewhat spoiled and confident school cut-up to a somber and steely young man. He watches as his brothers are shot and his sister takes poison and dies to avoid rape. He is molested himself, and nurses several companions to their deaths. He also builds a sense of his own inner character as he puts on many outward disguises, traveling from one dangerous situation to the next. If the narrative itself seems to wander and stumble through these experiences imparting little sense of direction, it does add to the mood of confusion, despair, and occasional unfounded hope. The lack of contextual material may frustrate some readers (WWI is not mentioned, and the presence of German and Russian military in Turkey not fully explained), but the short foreword does give just enough information to set the scene, and plunges readers, along with Vahan, into a terrifying situation they may not fully comprehend at first. There is very little material available to young readers on this subject. Kerop Bedoukian’s Some of Us Survived (1978) and David Kherdian’s Newbery Honor book The Road from Home (1979) are still in print, but this should find a new and appreciative readership. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7894-2627-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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