Outside in World | Browse Books
Use our Book Finder to search for books by Title (or part of the title), Author, ISBN, Age Range, Keyword, or Continent/Country. Then simply click the magnifying glass to start your search.
‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Raven's Children (The)
by Yulia Yakovleva
Age Range: 9-11
Seven-year-old Shura, his older sister Tanya and three-year-old brother Bobka live with their parents in two rooms of a communal apartment in the city of Leningrad. When Shura’s papa, then mama and Bobka mysteriously disappear he overhears one of his neighbours whisper that ‘The Black Raven’ came to take them away. With money their mother has left for them together with a message that they must go to their aunt Vera who lives over the river Neva on Kamenny Island, the siblings decide to go out to get food spending the day on the streets of Leningrad trying to establish who the mysterious ‘Raven’ is. When they return home everything has changed. One of their neighbours now lives in their home and the other families either ignore or tell them to go away threating to tell the authorities if they do not.
Shura thinks the Black Raven refers to is a real bird not realising it is a nick name for the secret police who carry out their purges in the middle of the night. What began as an adventure slowly turns into a nightmare. Shura knows that he must find out where his parents have been taken. In order to protect Tanya he sets off on his own perilous journey, but the Black Raven is never far away and all too soon he is captured and put into an orphanage where children are re-educated. Will he ever be able to be reunited with Tanya, Bobka or his parents again?
Set in Russia in 1938 during Joseph Stalin’s Great Terror, the Secret Police are everywhere, searching for anyone who might be an enemy and people live amidst a climate of suspicion and fear with no idea of who they can trust. Inspired by her own family’s experiences, The Raven’s Children is Russian author Yulia Yakovleva’s first children’s novel which received widespread media attention in her native country.
Yakovleva is adept at presenting disturbing experiences by way of using magical realism to deal with what is a profoundly painful part of twentieth century Russian history that has been shrouded in secrecy. Mixing fantasy with history does not always work but here, Yakovleva seamlessly moves between the real gritty horror of Stalin’s regime to an edgy humour where animals and birds are able to talk, ears grow out of walls and people, including Shura, becoming invisible to others.
Beautifully translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, this is a clever novel on so many levels with definite Kafkaesque elements. Yakovleva makes the city streets of Leningrad come alive as the story slowly unfolds alternating between the frightening and funny. This is an engaging and inspiring story made perfectly accessible to a younger audience.
The Raven’s Children was an Honour Title in BookTrust’s In Other Words project 2017.