Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Number the Stars, Snow Treasure, and The Devil's Arithmetic.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:
The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.
A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.
But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway. And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.
In the Soviet Union in the mid 1940s, ten-year-old Sasha Zaichik lives in a world with “Communism just over the horizon.” Comrade Stalin rules, as their savior and a genius. Capitalist enemies – especially Americans - lurk everywhere, and Sasha is proud that his father is one of the heroic men that helps to “purge the vermin (that being Americans) from their midst,” as Stalin put it. In Communism – a theory of government – everyone lives together, crowded in small apartments. But that’s okay – it teaches them Communist “WE” rather than the selfish Capitalist “I.” A carrot is a rare treat, and no one gets paid money. Everyone works for the government, and in return you get housing and food tickets, where you wait for hours in line to get a piece of stale bread. But Sasha is convinced everything will be all right when he becomes a pioneer for Comrade Stalin… until his father is taken off to prison.
Capitalism, according to Stalin, is a theory of government with selfish, ignorant people who only live for themselves. They do nothing to help the government, which had ultimately led to their overall poverty and stupidity. This is what all of the Soviet Union has been taught. America is a Capitalist country.
Capitalism, according to America, is where freedom of thought, creating businesses, and making dreams come true is encouraged. You can have a job, buy your own food, make your own money, and choose.
But which is right? Stalin, or America?
Sasha Zaichik is about to find out.