Tomorrow! Finally, Sasha will become a Young Pioneer and help Comrade Stalin bring the prosperity of communism to the USSR. His father, an officer in the Soviet State Police, will be guest of honor at the ceremony and will tie Sasha’s red Young Pioneer scarf for the first time.
Waiting in the apartment kitchen that they share with 46 others, he knows that his father will be late to dinner since he is always busy catching spies. Sasha adores his father, but he worships Comrade Stalin who watches over all the people of the USSR. How sad that the children in capitalist countries will never be free enough to live together in such harmony!
But heavy boots come up the stairs late at night, and the State Police arrest Father! A neighbor has reported lies about his loyalty to Stalin, just to get their apartment for his own family. Now Sasha is alone in the darkness and the snow.
There must be some mistake! Comrade Stalin himself pinned a medal on Father’s coat for catching spies as a State Police officer. Sasha decides that he must report this error to Comrade Stalin at once, so that his father can attend the Young Pioneer Ceremony at school tomorrow.
Everyone at school knows how children are treated when their parents are arrested as enemies of the State – scorned and mocked and bullied. And if the parents don’t return from bleak Lubyanka Prison, then it’s off to the orphanage for their children… perhaps a worse fate than a mere firing squad.
Can Sasha reach the Kremlin to speak with Comrade Stalin before it’s too late for his father? Will he be able to join the Young Pioneers when his father’s whereabouts are unknown? Can he find his Aunt Larisa on this dark winter night?
Yelchin’s black and white sketches show the bleakness of life under Stalin’s brutal control, even as Sasha begins to realize that the glowing words that he has memorized about his Great Leader are no truth at all.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA