Arcady's Goal

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Arcady's Goal Book Poster Image
Understated, affecting glimpse of child's life under Stalin.

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age 14+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Arcady's journey illustrates how Stalin's government tried to control the hearts of minds of the people. Readers will get a sense of the fear and vulnerability of life in this era, an important grounding for understanding the politics and culture of the region to this day. An author's note expands on the reality of Soviet life under Stalin and how that era continues to reverberate.

 

Positive Messages

Bravery isn't always big and bold. Seemingly small things, such as coaching a soccer team or filling out a form, can require extraordinary courage. The story shows how fear can break people down and how people endure. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Arcady is proud of his skills and enjoys showing off, but he doesn't want to take advantage of his friends. He uses his position of influence to try to secure extra food and is bold enough to confront the camp director when he fails to fulfill his end of the bargain. Arcady tries to meet Ivan's expectations, even when he doesn't fully understand them. Ivan is kind and quietly brave, taking great risks to try to build a new life for himself and Arcady. 

 

Violence

Arcady's parents and Ivan's wife were executed. Labeled "enemies of the people," Arcady and Ivan occupy a precarious position in Soviet society. They're ostracized and particularly vulnerable to the whims of party officials.

Sex
Language

A character exclaims "what the hell" after getting hurt during a game.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An angry and upset Ivanych enters a smoky "tearoom" filled with drunk men and gets intoxicated. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Arcady's Goal by Newbery Honor-winning author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin (Breaking Stalin's Nose) is a thoughtful look at the psychological violence of the Stalinist era. Arcady, orphaned by the execution of his parents, is labeled an enemy of the people and ostracized. His adoptive father also is treated dismissively because of his wife's political execution. Although there's no violence in the story, the threat of violence and loss pervades the narrative. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byRussianHistoryReader November 8, 2018

It's a good book on this.. touchy subject.

This book is very nice, with the occasional vodka, or smoke popping up. This is realistic in that matter though, and it got me back into reading some books on... Continue reading

What's the story?

In Stalin-era Russia, a boy named Arcady has lived in state-run "homes" for orphans since his parents were arrested when he was a toddler. He's the best soccer player in his camp, playing for food rations with makeshift goals. When inspectors visit, Arcady is told to impress them with his talent – until one of the inspectors halts the violent game. The inspector, Ivan Ivanych, returns to adopt Arcady, who hopes Ivanych is really a soccer coach who will help him achieve his dream: to play on the Red Army Soccer Team. Ivanych proves a disappointment as a soccer coach, but his heart -- and his yearning to live and love fully -- are a revelation for Arcady.

Is it any good?

Yelchin, whose personal history is entwined with Russia's, writes with great compassion. In ARCADY'S GOAL, Yelchin revisits the frightening, traumatic period he wrote about in Breaking Stalin's Nose. His narrator this time is a bold boy the government would like to keep hidden away, but his audacious personality and talent are hard to contain. Arcady needs some softening, and Ivanych needs some strength. There's no miraculous perfect ending in store for them -- just the quiet happiness of a connection that preserves their humanity and hope. 

Yelchin's nuanced, intriguing black-and-white illustrations underscore the emotional resonance of the story. A sequence of three full-spread illustrations as Arcady settles into his new life is particularly graceful and touching.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fiction can deepen our understanding of history. What did you learn about this period of Russian history from reading the book?

  • Is Ivan Ivanych overly fearful,or appropriately wary?

  • How do the illustrations complement the narrative?

Book details

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