A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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A character exclaims "what the hell" after getting hurt during a game.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An angry and upset Ivanych enters a smoky "tearoom" filled with drunk men and gets intoxicated.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.