Two survivors of Stalinist oppression attempt to form a family in this companion (not sequel) to the 2012 Newbery Honor–winning Breaking Stalin’s Nose.
All young Arcady knows of his parents is that they were declared “enemies of the people”; their supposed crimes ended their lives and landed him in a “children’s home.” Having lived in several “homes,” Arcady has learned to take care of himself and to play soccer so well he can beat kids twice his size one-on-one. When one of the government inspectors decides to adopt Arcady, the boy hopes Ivan Ivanych is a soccer scout or at least a coach who can help him win a place on the Red Army Soccer Club team like his idol Fedor Brutko. But Ivan is just a former teacher who lost his wife to whispered accusations of anti-Stalinism. The two find there’s almost no escape from labels, but there may be strength in their relationship. Yelchin once again examines the lasting effects of the horrors of Stalinism on the Russian people in a simple story told from the point of view of a child. His many pencil-and-charcoal illustrations, spot and full page, are action- and emotion-packed and gracefully complement the story. An author's note provides a moving, real-world example of the lasting impact of Stalin’s atrocities.
An uplifting, believable ending makes this companion lighter—but no less affecting—than its laurelled predecessor. (Historical fiction. 9-12)