The The Impossible Journey Hardcover – Jan 2 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-A story of a remarkable 13-year-old girl in an extraordinary situation. In Leningrad, in 1934, Marya sets out to find her parents, former aristocrats and therefore considered enemies of the state, who have been sent to Siberia as political prisoners. The spirited and resourceful girl learns that her mother is in Dudinka, a thousand miles from the closest railway station. Marya obtains a few rubles selling her paintings (like Kobe in Homeless Bird [HarperCollins, 2000], Marya's creativity helps sustain her) and buys tickets for herself and her younger brother. At the railway station, the children begin their trek, finding their way by following a river. Some strangers help them; others conspire to report them to the authorities for placement in an orphanage. A tribe of reindeer-herding Samoyeds helps the children to their final stop, where they are reunited with their mother. Papa, who had been sent to a coal-mining camp in Siberia, eventually joins them, but is so ill that he dies at the first signs of spring. Life under Stalin as seen through the eyes of Marya is accessible, well researched, and culturally insightful. Lyrical prose conveys both a strong sense of place and the tremendous love that compels the protagonist to find her parents. Once again, Whelan successfully explores territory less traveled in books for young people.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5-8. In a companion to Angel on the Square (2001), Whelan turns her attentions to Stalinist Russia, circa 1934. Following the murder of a local Communist party official, 13-year-old Marya's parents (the grown-up Katya and Mishka from the earlier novel) are arrested and sent into exile. Marya and her younger brother Georgi try to manage on their own at first, but eventually they set off on a long trek from Leningrad to Siberia, where they hope to locate their mother. Although the odds are great, with help from a kindly doctor, a fisherman's wife, and a band of nomadic Samoyeds, they succeed. Whelan centers her narrative on the children's journey, adding depth with a wealth of rich background details--about political prisons, the prevailing attitudes toward Communist dissidents, the changing lifestyles of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, and the absence of personal and religious freedoms, and much more. Give this to children who liked the previous book and to fiction fans who are interested in this historical period. A glossary of Russian terms is appended. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
One night, in the cramped apartment their family lives in, Marya stumbles upon the secret gold locket that her mother has always held so dear and precious to her. Marya looks inside the locket and sees miniscule pictures of each of the members of the Imperial family: Tsar Nikolai II, Empress Alexandra, Tsarevitch Alexei, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Marie, and Grand Duchess Anastasia. Marya clutches the small locket tight to her, and keeps it safely in her coat pocket the next day at school, where a government-appointed comrade teaches the students the excellence and almighty power of their new Communist government.
But when one cruel girl taunts Marya for her family's rumored counterrevolutionary activity, Marya thrusts out the locket, showing her mother's importance, and before Marya can take it away, the girl grabs the locket and takes it to their teacher. Brokenhearted, Marya discovers that she may have caused the final straw for her parents' arrest for being counterrevolutionary, and instead being royalists still.Read more ›
The idea that a Russian doctor would be fired for reading an American medical journal is as frightening as the thought of children reporting their parents as disloyal comrades. This historical novel serves as an excellent discussion point for the advantages US citizens take for granted, and may be a reminder in these patriotic and suspicious times of ours that it is easy for governments to use fear to mold behavior. Pair with Whelan's companion novel Angel on the Square for a more complete picture of life in communist Russia.
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