I often find it hard to sink into a historical fiction MG title, but this one absolutely sucked me in. The Chernobyl disaster isn't something widely addressed in kids' lit, and this title handles it so well. The interwoven political and social dynamics are heartbreaking, but the friendship the two main characters develop despite everything is so lovely. (This is also now a Sydney Taylor Book Award Silver Medalist)
NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD WINNER A SYDNEY TAYLOR MIDDLE GRADE HONOR BOOK
Like Ruta Sepetys for middle grade, Anne Blankman pens a poignant and timeless story of friendship that twines together moments in underexplored history.
On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work--Chernobyl--has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who've always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina's estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother's secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they've wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend's life? Would you risk your own?
Told in alternating perspectives among three girls--Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941--this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.
About the Author
Anne Blankman has loved to write stories for as long as she can remember. She grew up in Niskayuna, New York, where she met a classmate who had survived Chernobyl and who eventually inspired Anne to write The Blackbird Girls. They are still friends to this day. Currently, Anne lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Mike, her daughter, Kirsten, and two rescue cats. For several years, she worked as a children's librarian but now she writes full-time. When she isn't writing, Anne likes to spend time with her family, read, travel, knit, and go for long runs. She loves hearing from readers, and you can visit her at anneblankman.com or @AnneBlankman.
Raves for The Blackbird Girls
"A gripping adventure and a beautiful tribute to the power of friendship in the face of troubling times."--Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author
"A powerful and beautifully written story that explores the losses and growing friendship of two girls whose lives and beliefs are forever changed after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It's truly an unforgettable work that left me breathless."--Patricia Reilly Giff, Newbery Honor author of Lily's Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods
"This unique novel by Anne Blankman brings powerful moments in history into sharp (and tear-inducing) focus...Not to be missed."--Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic, Briar Rose, and Mapping the Bones
"As soon as Oksana and Valentina emerged from the colored smoke, I needed to know their fate. The girls' adventure feels so real that the reader is immediately caught up in their plight. Bravery hauls them through sticky corruption, stony prejudice, a web of lies, and a lot of danger. A thrilling story!"--Geraldine McCaughrean, Carnegie Medal and Printz Award winner
* "Blankman spins a stunningly complex tale out of simple words." - Kirkus, starred review
* "This title weaves a beautiful, bittersweet tale of courage, resilience, and how love can ultimately overcome ingrained hatred and prejudice." - School Library Connection, starred review
* "A deeply affecting testament to the power of unlikely friendship in the face of bias, tragedy, and distance." - School and Library Journal, starred review
* "Flashbacks from Rifka’s life during World War II deepen Blankman’s exploration of the transformative power of friendship across time. Rich with historical details."--BookPage, starred review