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Kid Konnection: Between Shades of Gray

February 26, 2011

The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940 and Stalin’s troops created lists of people considered to be anti-Soviet – these were doctors, teachers, military, landowners, writers, librarians and so many more.  These people were imprisoned, murdered or deported to Siberia.  Fifteen year old Lina’s father worked at the university, so her family was targeted.  Her father was sent to prison, while Lina, her mother and her younger brother Jonas were sent to Siberia.  Lina was an artist and chronicled their journey with drawings.

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, tells the heartbreaking story of those deported to Siberia.  It’s the story of people of different ages and different backgrounds having to learn to join together under harsh conditions in order to survive.  While Lina is a fictional character, her story is based on the story of many other people, and many of the incidences in the book are based on true stories.  I became very attached to Lina and some of the other characters in this book and sobbed more than once because many of them didn’t have happy endings.

I’m finding it very difficult to articulate how much this book means to me and I have tears in my eyes as I type this.  My maternal grandparents immigrated from Lithuania early in the twentieth century, so they were in the United States before any of this happened.  They left many family members behind, though, and I grew up hearing about a great uncle who was exiled to Siberia simply because he owned a small plot of land.  He wasn’t a young man at the time, but he survived ten years in Siberia, only to come home to find the windows and doors of his home missing.  He and his wife had to huddle in bed all winter, surviving on scraps of food brought to them by friends and neighbors.  When spring came, they fixed up their house and bought a cow.  That cow was so important to their survival that they brought it into their home when winter came again.

I’m so glad that Ruta Sepetys has chosen to tell this story.  Her book is well written and marketed as a YA book, but it is one that should crossover into the adult market.  The story is absorbing, even though it is gut wrenching and heartbreaking.  This is an important book and one you shouldn’t miss – do yourself a favor and read it.  This video is long, but well worth watching.  I’ve watched it several times and have cried each time.  You need to hear the survivor’s stories.

For more children’s books reviews, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week,  leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
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32 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2011 5:09 am

    Sounds great, and I like that it could work as an Adult book too. And for me this would be that kind of what if book. This could have happened to Finland but we managed to stay independent

  2. February 26, 2011 6:31 am

    I have been hearing great things about Between Shades of Gray . It seems like a very good realistic book, that can be read by everyone. Thanks for sharing your grandparents’ experiences!

  3. February 26, 2011 7:12 am

    I’m so thankful that the author was able to write this story and then get it published so it won’t be forgotten. I was equally touched by a novel I read when I was in hs (back in the 70s) called The Endless Steppe.
    Thank you for telling about your relatives. And how great that you can pass that along to your son. We need to know about those who came before us. I really appreciate that you included the video. I watched it and you’re right, it’s quite emotional.

  4. February 26, 2011 7:59 am

    Thank you Kathy, sharing your thoughts about this book and sharing too you uncle’s story !
    Some books are magical : I remember one I offered for Christmas to my grand-father. He was a very young soldier (17 years old) during World war 1 and rarely spoke about it. But after reading the book, he explained me it was just what he lived, and his eyes was full of tears.
    Now he passed away, I keep the book with care !

  5. February 26, 2011 8:02 am

    I loved this book, too, and I am so moved by your account.

  6. February 26, 2011 8:33 am

    I am definitely going to have to read this one. I love when books can have that type of affect on a reader.

  7. February 26, 2011 9:17 am

    Wow, this sounds like such a powerful story.

  8. February 26, 2011 9:29 am

    I can’t wait to read this one. It sounds right up my alley & I’m glad you liked it so much!

  9. February 26, 2011 9:31 am

    O I love that you connected with this one. I’ve heard amazing things about it. Great review :)

  10. February 26, 2011 10:10 am

    I agree with Blodeuedd, it sounds like it could be viewed as adult or YA. Sounds rather heartwrenching too.

  11. February 26, 2011 11:50 am

    I loved this book, too! I cried for the entire second half of the book…It was so powerful and real. I read it months ago and still think of it at least once or twice a week. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12. February 26, 2011 11:53 am

    It’s great to have this story done for the YA group!

  13. February 26, 2011 12:08 pm

    I’ve never heard of this book before but I will definitely look into it. It sounds like a powerful story and I think I would enjoy it. Thanks for the review.

  14. Beth Hoffman permalink
    February 26, 2011 12:28 pm

    Oh, Kathy. I can’t even imagine what you were feeling when you read this book. Your review is wonderful.

  15. February 26, 2011 1:01 pm

    Just watched the trailer and you’re right – was boo-hooing as Irena’s dad said good-bye to her from the slats in the train – wow, can’t imagine how emotional the book must be. Will definitely be lookign for this one.

  16. February 26, 2011 2:22 pm

    I’m so looking forward to reading this one! It looks fantastic. I’m so glad you enjoyed and found so much meaning in it.

  17. February 26, 2011 7:16 pm

    I haven’t heard of this but it sounds interesting as long as Lina’s drawings made it into the book of course. Aren’t they always better when we can make a personal connection?

  18. February 26, 2011 8:11 pm

    I am definitely going to read this one now. Kathy you delivered the essence of why this book touched you and thank you for sharing a piece of family history. It ties up my conviction that YES gotta to read this one next.

  19. February 26, 2011 8:55 pm

    This one sounds absolutely riveting and fascinating. This is a part of history that I know absolutely nothing about and would like to read this one. I loved your heartfelt words about this story.

  20. February 26, 2011 9:34 pm

    I read about this book earlier, and I do plan to read this sometime. I was really moved by your story. I hope your great-uncle fared well?

  21. February 27, 2011 6:52 am

    Kathy …this sounds like such a great book. I was touched by your personal story about your family as well. It is amazing what some of our ancestors had to endure.

  22. February 27, 2011 7:37 pm

    I read a lot about this book on Natalie’s site, and just from your reaction to it, and the praise you give it, I think it’s one that I really need to seek out and try for myself. It sounds as if this story really touched you personally and in some ways brought you closer to the things that your family went through. Thanks for posting the video as well. It seems like an extremely moving book.

  23. February 27, 2011 11:45 pm

    I am so glad I have a copy of this book to read now – it sounds so moving and wonderful!

  24. February 28, 2011 8:59 am

    This book has become one of my favorites and I’m so glad you loved it as well – your personal family history is incredible as well. Like you, I am so happy that she wrote this, and I love the fact that it was written for a YA audience. I’m so looking forward to her next book!

  25. March 1, 2011 11:19 am

    This sounds fascinating. I’m going to see if my library has a copy.

  26. March 1, 2011 1:56 pm

    I had thought this sounded like a good book to read from the description but after reading your wonderful review I know it is a book I must read! I think these types of stories are very important and they are stories that must not be forgotten!

  27. March 1, 2011 5:45 pm

    This sounds really good. Sorry to hear your family members suffered though.

  28. Thoughts of Joy permalink
    March 5, 2011 8:53 am

    Yay! I’m glad to see that you found this one a winner. I have an ARC and am looking forward to it.

  29. March 16, 2011 4:51 pm

    Amazing review and thank you for including your family story.

  30. March 18, 2011 9:11 pm

    I was hoping you would think this one is a winner after hearing about your family’s experiences.

  31. May 20, 2011 1:29 pm

    When books touch someone personally, it makes the experience with the fictional story all the more satisfying and emotional. I cannot even imagine how you must have felt reading about these characters given what members of your family endured. Thanks so much for sharing your personal history with us and for the fantastic review. I must put this on the to-read list.

  32. January 28, 2012 7:36 pm

    Wow, my friend recommended this to me today. Going to have to pick up a copy – time for a thought provoking read.

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