Review: The Impossible Journey

impossiblejourneyBook: The Impossible Journey (2004)
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: MG, Historical (Soviet Union 1934)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Marya and Georgi want nothing more than to be reunited with their parents who have been taken during one of Stalin’s purges. The two determined children set out on an impossible journey across Russia towards a remote village in Siberia with the slight hope that they will find their mother there. (A companion book to Angel on the Square.)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I read Angel on the Square a long time ago. (Hint: It’s about Marya’s and Georgi’s mother.) I didn’t know this book existed until now! I like that it’s not a direct “sequel”, but that it does give us another peek into the lives of the characters from the first book. (Note: You can also read this book without having read Angel.)

2) The sibling relationship between Marya and Georgi is both realistic and sweet. He’s the typical younger brother who frustrates Marya. And yet she can’t leave him behind!

3) I love the look at the different families in this book. The book is about two children seeking to reunite their own split-apart family. Then there’s the neighbor family (with the bear) who initially take them in…. The doctor’s family on the train… And the “big family” of the Samoyeds (nomadic tribe).

4) The history of the time period of this book has always fascinated me. I thought Whelan did a good job in depicting the hardships of living under Stalin. One of my favourite parts was when Marya meets the Government Man and is forced to sing the praises of Stalin. (And how Georgi almost sabotages her plan!)

5) I really enjoyed learning about the Samoyeds (nomads who lived in Russia/Siberia at this time). I liked the interaction they had with the children, especially with regards to Georgi’s snow globe. I really liked how Marya and Georgi are not only helped by them, but also end up helping them in return.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found it hard to understand Marya’s impulsive nature, especially with regard to showing off her mother’s locket. (I suppose you could argue that it’s still only 1934 and she doesn’t yet know the danger of such items. The height of Stalin’s purges doesn’t happen until 1938.) Not a major criticism as the episode does show how school was a place where information was gleaned about parents.

2) In the very end, there is (what I’d consider) an unnecessary death. Certainly it’s realistic, but it didn’t seem to be absolutely necessary to the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book gives a good sense of this oppressive time period in history. I’d definitely recommend for anybody who likes history as well as those who like plucky-children-who-take-impossible-journeys stories.


YOUR TURN…

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

Review: William S. and the Great Escape

william-s-great-escapeBook: William S. and the Great Escape (2009)
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Genre: MG, Historical (1930s)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: William S. Baggett and his sister decide that it’s finally time to run away from home–away from an abusive father and a stepmother who doesn’t like them. And so begins the Great Escape. What makes it even harder… They decide to bring their little brother and sister with them to the safety of their aunt’s house. Along the way, they end up at the home of a girl they don’t know. She seems nice enough, but is she telling the truth when she tells them it’s not safe for them to continue on their journey?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The “S” after William’s name stands for “Shakespeare”. And one of William’s coping mechanisms is to immerse himself in reading from his big book of Shakespeare’s plays. He even entertains his siblings with his dramatizations.

2) I liked Clarice, despite the fact that she was quite selfish at times. But she does keep things interesting. And I like how she affected the ending of the story. 🙂

3) There was a nice sense of suspense as the kids are traveling. Some good conflict added when they finally realize they don’t actually have their aunt’s address!

4) The little kids added a nice bit of conflict to the escape as well. I like that William and Jancy won’t leave without the little ones, even though they know they will just slow them down.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I had to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be set in the 1930s. There were references to Shirley Temple and everything, but I’m not sure I was fully immersed in time period as I should have been.

2) This book has the disadvantage of having to move away from William’s POV to explain what happened. And I found that a little… awkward. I’m not sure how she could have done it, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Not as good as her other books (The Egypt Game, especially), but I did enjoy it. There’s a second book which I’m looking forward to reading… so, that’s definitely a positive.


YOUR TURN…

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