Ten-year-old Sasha has never questioned the wisdom of Stalin. His father is a loyal Soviet citizen, and Sasha longs to become a member of the Young Pioneers so he can work to promote communism. One evening, however, a neighbor denounces Sasha’s father as a spy. Suddenly Sasha finds that now he too is an enemy of the state and begins to question everything he once accepted as true.
Based on the author’s experience growing up in the Soviet Union, Breaking Stalin’s Nose portrays the fear that prevails in a society in which neighbors and family cannot trust one another. Sasha learns that although his father had been in great favor with Stalin, one accusation sufficed to land him in jail. To make matters worse, his relatives will not help him, not wanting to appear guilty of espionage by associating with the son of a “criminal”. Velchin does not shy away from presenting the harshness of life under an oppressive regime. For this reason, his story may appeal to students whose reading level is somewhat more advanced than this illustrated book requires.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.