If you’ve got a kid that loves folk and fairy tales, this is a story for them. If they like historical fiction, this is also for them. The alternating chapters between the story of Ileana in Romania circa 1989, and the stories that Ileana adapts as Romanian folktales to disguise their exact origins are amazing.
Living under Ceausescu was so dangerous for people who rebelled that Ileana has to leave Bucharest and go and live with her grandparents in a rural village. This is quite the change for a kid who grew up living city life under a communist regime. She is used to food shortages, secrecy, and living under the threat of torture. In the country, her grandparents are far enough away that she has a taste of a sort of “normal” childhood for a little while. During this time in the village, she comes into her own with both her storytelling and her political ideals. The novel reminded me of “The War That Saved My Life.” This is a time period (1980’s and 1990’s) that doesn’t have much for Middle-Grade kids.
Anyone studying Eastern Europe with kids could use this as a Read Aloud for many ages. You may have to explain to younger kids when the story transitions back and forth from fairy tale to the present, but the story contains typical wartime violence.
In the end, the story was so captivating that I thought maybe the fairy tale was real.
If this is the kind of book that your kid adores, imagine the joy of your child going to the mailbox each month for a shiny new book of their very own, and then meeting with kids their age to talk about the latest, greatest middle-grade titles. Consider a Bookish Society Membership!