between shades of gray: The Graphic Novel by Ruta Septys, adapted by Andrew Donkin, Art by Dave Kopka, color by Brann Livesay, Philomel, 2021. 9780593404850
Format: Softcover graphic novel
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? The story is powerful and horrific. 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother and her Mother are torn from their home in Lithuania in 1941 by the Russian military (NKVD). They are crammed into a truck with many others, then stuffed into a railway car meant for shipping livestock, given little food and forced to urinate through a hole they find on the railway car’s floor. They are on the train for six weeks – Another ride in the back of a truck takes them to the middle of nowhere in Siberia where they are forced to work growing beets. Later they are taken to live near the North Pole, made to build their own shelter and to work in frigid conditions. Her mother dies. Lina does not know if her father is living or dead. This was Lina’s life for twelve years. All that sustained her was her drawing, creating a visual history of her life. The illustrations are somber, mostly gray and brown, with an infrequent dash of color. They are very detailed and completely realistic. This is a part of the history of WWII seldom told.
Anything you did not like about the book? Not a thing. Although I did wonder if Lina’s father survived.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students who like historical fiction in a graphic format will read this one, particularly if they like true-to-life stories occurring during WWII.
Who should buy this book? Public and high school libraries, upper Middle school: grades 7 & 8.
Where would you shelve it? J/YA graphic novels
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review
Date of Review: November 11, 2021