Slice of Life Tuesday: When a book you read is a window into your parent’s life

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers
     Yesterday, I shared a review about Eugene Yelchin’s new novel, Breaking Stalin’s NoseThis much-anticipated-in-my-reading-life book arrived in our last purchase order, and I opened the box to squeals of delight and anticipation in my afternoon class – book orders are a BIG DEAL in my room, right up there with “candy for no particular reason” and “homework holidays.”  we opened the box, spread its contents across desks, and I went about the delicious process of explaining why I chose each title for our library and what special treasures I believe each book contained for us.
     Avi gravitated right to Eugene’s book – he studied the cover, the flap copy and the illustrations thoughtfully, and then asked if he could check the book out right away.  Delighted, I said “Yes!” right away – but there was something about the intensity of his interest that made me curious. So I asked if he’d share what drew him to this book in such a powerful way.
     “My dad grew up in Russia,” he said, “this sort of reminds me of things he’s talked about.  I think he’d kinda like to read it, too.”  So off Avi went with Eugene’s brand new book.  He burst into my classroom the next day and announced that not only did he love the book, but that his father did, too!  Much of what Eugene writes so brilliantly about had been experiences his Dad  was familiar with, had witnessed, had felt.  Because the book is told from ten year old Sasha’s perspective, and because Avi’s father was reading along with him and able to connect and expand upon the story,  father and son were able to  share a piece of their history -what it had been like to grow up in Soviet Russia.   
     Eugene’s website allowed Avi to see up close all those little things so familiar to his father – the Young Pioneer kerchief, the type of desk and classroom, Lubyanka prison, what the Secret Police looked like – and so utterly unfamiliar to him.  And Sasha’s story allowed Avi  insight into his father’s life – what it must have been like to grow up in a cultural atmosphere that promoted false truths, where your neighbor or your relative just might be the person who will turn you in to save their own skins.  Avi had much to think about…and much to say…this wonderful book has opened up a whole new line of thinking and conversation in Avi’s family, and I am just marveling anew about the power of literature.  
UPDATE:
Oh my word….Eugene’s book just won the Newbery Honor!!!

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11 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: When a book you read is a window into your parent’s life

  1. Hi Tara! This is even better than your review yesterday! I know you & all of us order many books, but for you to get this rather serendipitously & for Avi to be there in your class at the right time when you opened the box. It's magical to hear when it happens, and for you to support it too. I wonder if the father would like to talk to your class?

  2. Thanks, Linda…I have thought about having his father speak, but I think I will leave it up to him. Like Eugene, Avi's father lived through difficult times…and like Eugene (who had to leave Russia) Avi's father possibly had to make painful choices. I don't want those highly private and emotional experiences to become show and tell, although my kids would be respectful and appreciative. I've inicated that we'd be open to a visit, and we'll have to see…

  3. The book was a powerful connection. But you as an observant teacher is priceless. You were the connecting piece. The electrical conductor. When it all comes together it is pure magic. Congratulations.

  4. What an awesome feeling — and just think about the power of that book and the experience your student and father will always remember. With that excitement and sharing, kids will always be reading in your room!

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