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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work--Chernobyl--has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who've always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina's estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother's secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they've wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend's life? Would you risk your own? Told in alternating perspectives among three girls--Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941--this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.…

The Blackbird Girls

by Anne Blankman

Overall Book Review:

I can’t remember the last time a book affected me like The Blackbird Girls. The author, Anne Blankman, wove the story among three characters: one lived through World War II and the other two experienced the Chernobyl incident. Ms. Blankman does so in an unforgettable way, and it was fascinating to see how families were involved in both horrific events. There are many heavy things addressed including abuse, religious discrimination, and bullying, but Blankman also showed more uplifting things such as love and unbreakable relationships. The way she approached it all is so heart wrenching yet beautiful. She did an excellent job of making these difficult topics appropriate for a younger audience while still being interesting for all ages. Those who enjoy historical fiction will love this five-star novel!

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Viking Books for Young Readers

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  7 religious exclamations.

Violence/Gore:  Many (46) brief incidents including a verbal threat as a joke; character thinking about possibly dying; character feeling as though drowning; character worrying about dying and might let it happen; character’s skin feeling like needles pricking it; young girl afraid that father will die while fighting in war; character joking about dying of hunger; children encouraging other children to fight; characters worrying about getting killed; character wishing another would choke on food; character at gun-point; many references to war; many references to radiation poisoning; references to a power plant exploding; references to soldiers stealing, burning and destroying everything; second-hand report of child being hit by father; second-hand reports of young characters’ fathers dying; characters see dead birds from radiation poisoning; references to adult characters drinking and abusing others, including children; child intentionally burnt by father’s cigarette; reference to children getting spankings or getting hit with belt by teachers; reference to child dying of cancer; reference to trains being bombed; character accidentally burning self; character finding out that her family was murdered and father died while fighting in war; children having to kneel on rice as punishment at school; young girl kicking and scratching soldier; child’s feet blistering and bleeding from excessive walking; a few incidents of adults beating children; several characters getting radiation poisoning, some resulting in death; characters getting bombed; character lying down from exhaustion and could die.

Sex/Nudity:  Few (7) brief incidents including references to young girls liking boys; young girls talking about boys; adults touching hands; adults kissing; girls having to get naked in front of each other for a shower.

Mature Subject Matter:

Religious persecution; war; murder; death; child abuse; parents separated from children; starvation; child makes a crude comment about urine; industrial disaster; radiation poisoning.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

References to adults drinking alcohol; adult and child drinking wine for religious purposes; reference to alcohol being a treatment for radiation poisoning.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I love being able to help busy parents who just don’t have the time to pre-screen all their children’s books and know how much I appreciate it as my sons have gotten older. I feel very blessed that my amazing husband makes it possible for me to be a stay-at-home mother to four amazing boys. When not reading or enjoying time with my family, I like baking, especially trying new recipes, and the occasional sewing project.