Tag Archives: Estonia

Book Signing in Sarasota

Some authors don’t like book signings in bookstores. There have been reported cases of an author assigned a table by the entrance, their books plunked on that table, and the author then waits with pen in hand – ready to sign books for the crowd. And waits. And waits.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me in Sarasota due to the efforts of Monika – organizer and Estonian extraordinaire.


It was my first book signing in the USA, and Donna, from Barnes and Noble, was fantastic. It was a pleasure to meet a book lover who is involved in the community, and engaged with schools, librarians, and teachers.


I was delighted to meet the small, but enthusiastic group of Estonians. Given the events in Crimea – the establishment of military presence, a vote to join Russia, and the inability of the West to intervene – all very familiar events to the Baltic countries  – it was timely to talk about The Darkest Corner of the WorldIn turn, some of the audience shared their stories and experiences of the war, and their thoughts about the current situation in Ukraine. 


Thanks everyone! It was great to meet you!

And being in Florida, the sunset was pretty spectacular as well.



Who writes about Stalin and communism for kids?

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the Olympic coverage from Sochi. Along with the commentary about the Olympic athletes, I’ve also heard snippets of history – some of it accurate, some of it not. One particular comment from an NBC commentator who referred to decades of Soviet communism as a “pivotal experiment” astounded me. 

We know about Hitler and the horrors of the Holocaust.

But what about Stalin and his crimes against humanity? He ruled the Soviet Union for thirty brutal and bloody years. Where are the stories about the millions of people who died during his rule and World War II? Where are the stories about life behind the Iron Curtain?

Stalin said, “No people. No problem.”

No people means no stories. No memories. 

Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” For most of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union was the “winner.” For five decades the Iron Curtain limited communication between the West and the Eastern Bloc countries. Letters were censored, and people were afraid to tell their stories.

As the child of immigrant parents from Estonia, I grew up hearing about arrests, deportations, imprisonments in labour camps, and other grim events. At that time, there was virtually nothing written about these events. So many years later, I wrote the book I wanted to read as a teenager (The Darkest Corner of the World), and continue to write about little-known events.

I was curious to find out how many other Canadian authors write about Stalin and communism in the former Soviet Union for a younger audience. (The former USSR included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrquyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan)

I polled authors from CANSCAIP and SCBWI Canada East and Canada West.

Not many. Far too few. There are still so many stories to tell.

Here is the list of Canadian Kidlit authors, and their books set in the former USSR countries, as well as books about Russian history. If you know of any books I’ve missed, I’d love to add them to the list.


Marsha Skrypuch is a Ukrainian Canadian children’s writer who has received numerous awards and honours for her books. Her most recent novel is Underground Soldier. Luka escapes a Nazi slave camp only to be caught amidst the Nazi and Soviet front. He joins Ukrainian resistance fighters and mounts raids on both oppressive regimes.

Marsha - book covers

Heather Kirk is a Canadian author who writes about Poland for young people and adults. Her most recent book is a non-fiction account of the Polish nonviolent resistance movement, Solidarity. The book is titled Be Not Afraid: The Polish (R)evolution, “Solidarity.”

heather - book covers

Graffiti Knight by Karen BassIn spite of the scars World War Two has left on his hometown, Leipzig, and in spite of the oppressive new Soviet regime, Wilm is finding his own voice.

The Secret of the Village Fool by Rebecca Upjohn. (picture book) When the Nazis arrive in the sleepy little village of Zborów in Poland and begin rounding up Jews, what will Milek, his brother Munio and their parents do?

Just Call Me Joe by Frieda Wishinsky. The year is 1909 and Joseph has just immigrated to the United States from Russia.

frieda, rebecca, karen - book covers

Sworn Enemies by Carol Matas. Set in Czarist Russia in 1851, this novel addresses the issue of forced conscription into the army.

Nettie’s Journey by Adele DueckAn old woman tells her granddaughter the story of her life in a Mennonite village in Ukraine – from the dangers of World War I and the Russian Revolution to their escape to Canada.

Rachel’s Secret by Shelly Sanders. Rachel, a Jew, and Sergei, a Christian, find their worlds torn apart by violence in pre-revolutionary Russia.

carol matas - book cover

Schooldays Around the World (available 2015)  by Margriet Ruurs. (picture book) A school in Kazakhstan is featured.

Thanks to Gillian O’Reilly for suggesting these books:

Out of Line: Growing up Soviet by Tina Grimberg. (Non-fiction) Memories of life behind the Iron Curtain in Kiev.

One More Border: The true story of one family’s escape from war-torn Europe by William Kaplan and Shelley Tanaka, illustrations by Stephen Taylor. (Non-fiction) Lithuanian Jews escape the Holocaust.

Four Steps to Death by John Wilson. Set during the battle of Stalingrad.

non-fiction book covers