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I'm Kellie, an avid reader and school librarian who loves sharing and talking about books.As a middle school librarian I get to spend my days doing just that, while also enjoy discovering the perfect books to share with my friends. Ms. Burke's Books is a continuation of that, a place where I can offer my honest opinions on the books I read and hopefully help match you to your new favorite book!

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The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh



12 year old Mattie is going stir crazy, stuck in his house and doing online school in the spring of 2020. He's worried about his dad, a reporter working in another country, and upset that he is secluded with his mom and great-grandmother. To keep him busy he is tasked with helping his great-grandmother, GG, go through her old boxes. Reluctant at first, GG completely shuts down once Mattie discovers a photo of two young girls and starts asking questions. Mattie gradually gets GG to open up about her past and allow him to read through the papers and diaries that document the experiences of three girls during the Ukrainian famine of the 1930's: Ukrainian girls Mila and Nadiya, and Ukrainian-American Helen. 

My Thoughts

The Lost Year is a really compelling novel that tackles a historical event that I'm sure many readers won't know much about. I really enjoyed that through the three girls' different upbringings and experiences the reader got a more global view of this time in history. Helen is living in Brooklyn, where her parents immigrated. She learns about the famine through letters from relatives and through their local Ukrainian community. Reading the news in school she sees how Stalin's lies are being falsely reported, hiding the truth of what was really happening. In Ukraine, Mila's father is a prominent member of the party and she is oblivious to the struggles of people around her, believing in the party line that the people from the countryside are starving because of their own doing. Nadiya is one of those from the countryside, escaping into Kyiv out of desperation and near death from hunger. It allows us to see the effects of total control over the press, both on the citizens of the country in question and to the outside world.

Marsh draws similarities between the Soviet government's denial and lies regarding Ukrainians starving with the American government's misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comparison is heavy handed at times and verges on preaching but this could be needed for middle grade students who might not have been as aware of the national discourse in spring 2020. It does put this historical event into a context that students can possibly relate to, especially current students who experienced virtual schooling and isolation. 

Book Information

Author: Katherine Marsh
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Publish Date: January 17, 2023

Genre(s): historical fiction
Recommended for: middle grade/ middle school
Protagonist Description12 year old boy, white; young teenage girls, Ukrainian or Ukrainian-American
Trigger Warnings: pandemic, death

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for free from NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.

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