Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – My Own Revolution

 I picked up MY OWN REVOLUTION by Carolyn Marsden at ALA last month, after not only blogging it as an “I can’t wait to read” book that week, but also having a drink with Carolyn at a middle grade meet-up the night before! When I found her signing the books in the exhibition floor we had a laugh about it, because I had been completely unaware who I’d been gossiping with at the Hilton Hotel.My Own Revolution

Here’s the blurb: In 1960s Czechoslovakia,. Fourteen-year-old Patrik rebels against the communist regime in small ways whenever he gets the chance: spray-painting slogans, listening to contraband Beatles records, even urinating on a statue of Lenin under cover of night. But anti-Party sentiment is risky, and when party interference cuts a little too close to home, Patrik and his family find themselves faced with a decision — and a grave secret — that will change everything. As the moments tick toward too late, Patrik takes his family’s fate in hand, risking everything for a chance at freedom. Examining the psychological toll of living under an authoritarian regime, Carolyn Marsden allows readers to experience both Patrik’s persistent worry and his hope for better things.

The book is a quick read that I breezed through while waiting for and taking the ferry to Vancouver Island. It was interesting that I read it on this journey because on Vancouver Island lives my sister and her husband, my brother in law, who is the most pro-communism person I know. I’ve known him for over thirty years and while he is not as rose tinted about the former Soviet Union as some of his comrades, or especially his late father, he still adheres to the notion that Soviet Communism was a genuine application of Marx’s ideals.

Marsden was inspired to write this book after meeting a Czech surgeon who escaped the Soviet Occupation as a teen. So I’m confident that the book’s negative portrayal of life under communism is very authentic. I’VE never been a believer that Soviet Communism was anything like the ideal that Marx dreamt of, despite the dewy eyed exultations of  some of my brother-in-law’s friends. But I found myself squirming as I read this book. It’s not that it’s a polemic against communism or the Soviets, in fact I think it’s quite balanced and real. I think my struggle was just a lingering hangover to my left-wing upbringing. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it was ever that bad. It’s possible I was raised to mistrust any American media about life under communism. I was very surprised at my discomfort.

But  I think that’s a mark of a very well written book. I was drawn into Patrik’s struggle and began thinking as that idealistic lefty I had been myself at that age (rather than the skeptical pragmatist I am now). I thought the innocent romance subplot played a very nice counterpoint to the political crisis that Patrik was having. The plot was tight and streamlined, the characters drawn with simple strokes but still three dimensional. And it was tense and taut. I was scared for Patrik and his family.

This is a short book, about 42,000 words and I estimate the reading level to be about grade five. Certainly a good book for boys or girls reading at age typical levels ages 10+. There is no sex and very little violence or inappropriate language.

The Great UnexpectedFor this week’s I can’t wait to read I’m going to look at my pile of ARCs from ALA and go with THE GREAT UNEXPECTED by Sharon Creech. I’m a huge fan of Creech’s verse novels, but this will be the first of her prose that I read. Here’s a little taste:

I had big thoughts to match the big wind. I wondered if we find the people we need when we need them. I wondered if we attract our future by some sort of invisible force, or if we are drawn to it by a similar force. I felt I was turning a corner and that change was afoot.

Don’t need the library, Amazon or the bookstore for this one, I’ve already got it! Bean bag chair on the porch, here I come!

For other MMGM fun check out these blogs:

9 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – My Own Revolution

  1. so funny that we’re both featuring revolutionary books from the ’60s this week. very mature things to deal with in middle grade, but it looks like both books do so in a manner that is digestible for children.

  2. Oh, cool, Czechoslovakia! Don’t know what it is about that country–well, I have been to Prague, and it’s the most gorgeous, interesting, mysterious city. Anyway, this is a setting and topic rather underrepresented in kids lit. I’ll look for it for sure.

  3. I agree with Kim; we certainly don’t see many books about the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Sounds interesting, Gabrielle.

    And I’ll be looking forward to your review of THE GREAT UNEXPECTED because I just finished reading the ARC! Do you mean you’ve never read WALK TWO MOONS? Add that one to your list.

  4. This sounds like a great book in this political climate we face as we move more and more toward a controlling government. It seems no matter what some people see or read about it, they want desperately for the government to take care of them with no regard to the cost. I will get off my soap box before I start a riot. 🙂 I LOVE, LOVE Sharon Creech’s books. Walk Two Moons is one of my most favorite books of all times. When I reviewed it, Ms. Creech actually commented on the post. One of the highlights of my blogging career!

  5. I hope you enjoy Sharon Creech’s new book! I love her verse novels too, but Walk Two Moons is my favorite–one of my top five novels of all time, and I highly recommend it!

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