Review / Blackbird Girls

20210808ma_2823Book: Blackbird Girls (2020)
Author: Anne Blankman
Genre: MG, Historical (1986/1941)

Opening lines from the book …
Valentina wondered where the birds had gone. They weren’t waiting on the sill when she went to the sitting room window that morning.


1) This book is set in the Soviet Union and goes back and forth between 1986 and 1941. Of course, at one point, the characters in each time period merge. I really enjoyed seeing that happen. I know quite a bit about life in the Soviet Union as my grandmother grew up there. The parts set in 1986 were less known to me, but I found them equally as interesting.

2) This book is about Chernobyl. (Can’t you tell from that cover?) I’m fascinated by this topic, although this is the first book I’ve read about the disaster that occurred in 1986. The opening chapters deal with what happened. I was riveted! The author did a wonderful job in pulling us in, especially with regards to all the lies that were being told (or not told) in the wake of the nuclear disaster. The Soviet Union was a place where fear reigned. From the whisper-campaign of neighbors against neighbors to the ever-present threat of the secret police, I felt this story got that right. 

3) I love how the two main characters, Valentina and Oksana, are not at all friends at the beginning of this story. It sets us up for some wonderful conflict between the two. I love the uneasy-alliances trope in books. The book also flashbacks to 1941 where we meet Rifka. She’s Jewish and must escape the arrival of the Nazi army as it invades the Soviet Union. Of course, at one point all three of them come together.

4) The title was quite interesting. I was interested to see how it developed. It has to do with how the two girls end up standing up for one another.

5) I loved the author’s note at the end of the book explaining how this is story is based in part on a friend’s experiences. I usually like authors’ notes, and this one did not disappoint!


There are not so many books about the Soviet Union. Because of my grandmother, I definitely am drawn to them. But I think this is history that we need to know, whether or not we have a connection.



Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday


10 thoughts on “Review / Blackbird Girls

  1. This is a unique topic to base a MG book on. I remember reading an adult book depicting Chernobyl and was captivated. I like how this one has two different time periods that come together eventually. I’ve added this one to my list of books to read this year. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.


  2. I love historical fiction, especially when they are based on true experiences of those living there. Have always loved reading and studying about Russia, so I’m intrigued. Never really understood all of the dynamics. A lot of misinformation, but time eventually reveals the truth. Thank you for sharing!

    I’m reading an adult book, The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan, a little known story about Germans living in the Soviet Union, and returning to Germany after WWII because they were promised help.


  3. This sounds like a great read! I haven’t seen many books set in the Soviet Union, and the way this one explores Chernobyl and the WWII era sounds fascinating. And Valentina and Oksana’s relationship sounds intriguing as well! Thanks so much for the great review!


  4. I haven’t read this but it sounds really interesting. I remember when Chernobyl happened and how scary that felt even as far away as the United States. The tie in the WWII is intriguing and I can’t imagine how it is pulled off, so I guess I’ll have to read this book. Thanks for the enticing review.


  5. You’re right. There really aren’t many books about the Soviet Union, and I think it’s really important for young people to understand what was going on there. This sounds like a terrific book. I’m putting this one on my Hope-to-get-tp-it-someday TBR list. Thanks for the review.


  6. Pingback: My Top Reads… from 2021 | Of Maria Antonia

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