|Genius under the table : growing up behind the Iron Curtain|
Author: Yelchin, Eugene
Recounts in hilarious detail the author's childhood in Cold War Russia as a young boy desperate to understand his place in his family.
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Kirkus Reviews (+) (09/15/21)
School Library Journal (+) (10/01/21)
Booklist (+) (06/01/21)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/10/21)
The Hornbook (+) (00/09/21)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 06/01/2021 *Starred Review* This warm and wonderfully illustrated autobiography comes from the author of Newbery Honor Book Breaking Stalin's Nose (2011). Yelchin describes his 1960s Leningrad childhood in the former Soviet Union, where his entire family crowds into a one-room apartment right next to the resident KGB informer. Mom is hopelessly in love with Misha Baryshnikov. Dad weeps over his favorite Russian poets. Big brother Victor is a champion figure skater. And little Yevgeny? His talents seem . . . elusive. Yevgeny is frustrated not only because of his cloudy future but also because of the questions he isn't allowed to ask, let alone get answered: How heavy is the Iron Curtain? What does it mean when people 'defecate' and seek asylum? Why is Grandpa cut out of all our family photos? Yevgeny finds solace in drawing on his secret canvas—the underside of Grandma's table. Luckily, when his pictures are discovered, he is declared a genius and starts art lessons. The self-effacing narrative seamlessly blends in Cold War history, Soviet politics, and loving family interchanges, and Yelchin's sly illustrations appear on almost every page. There's not a lot of material about this time period, and this humorous, informative, and engaging memoir will keep readers entertained. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 10/01/2021 Gr 5 Up—Yelchin has created an unforgettable portrayal of one family's experiences living in the Soviet Union during the Cold War in his ingenious memoir. Using expressive drawings, Yelchin enhances his story of growing up in Leningrad. Yevgeny, his brother Victor, father, mother, and grandmother all share one room in a communal apartment. Each figure is shown to be beautifully human, flaws and all. Victor is a wonderful ice skater who began by skating behind trucks in traffic; the father is a stern Communist who loves Russian poets, such as Osip Mandelstam; the mother works for the Vaganova Ballet School and adores Mikhail Baryshnikov; and the grandmother is keeping a secret about their grandfather. Every evening, all the furniture in their one room living space has to be moved to convert it into their bedroom. Yevgeny sleeps under the dining room table, where he draws on the underside of the table each night with a pencil he has taken from his father. When his drawings are discovered, Yevgeny earns the nickname of "The Genius Under the Table" from his family and begins to study drawing. With an engaging and likable subject, Newbery Honor author Yelchin offers a poignant look at growing up during Cold War–era Soviet Union that will fascinate readers. VERDICT Recommended for those who love captivating memoirs mixed with humor.—Susan Catlett, Green Run H.S., Virginia Beach - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.