I have a mild fascination with all things Eastern European. So when I heard about this memoir of a girl growing up in the Ukraine behind the "iron curtain" I knew I wanted to read it.
This was a very sweet compilation of stories about a childhood that although was very difficult in many respects was also filled with love and joy. Tina weaves stories together in an interesting way. She'll be telling one story, which to fully illustrate is intermeshed with another story, and when that is complete it is back to finish the original story. It probably sounds jumbled and hard to follow, but it isn't. It is actually lovely and serves to illustrate and fill out the narrative in a really interesting way.
There are stories of the long lines they had to stand in to receive food, how a connection with someone made all the difference between getting choice items to going home empty handed. A story of when her grandmother was sent to prison. Another that details the crush Tina had on Young Lenin, a statue that depicted Lenin as an eight year old boy with all the admiral communist qualities one could bestow on a statue. The stories are also interspersed with photos of the people she is discussing. Pictures of her parents, her sister, Young Lenin, her grandparents. All appear in the book. The last story deals with how they were able to emigrate from the Ukraine. Not an easy thing to do at that time.
This memoir could work with middle school students, but I think it is just as likely to appeal to high school students as well. It is short, but packs a wallop.