Burying the Sun

Burying the Sun

4.3 6
by Gloria Whelan

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Too young for the army, one boy takes saving the city into his own hands. The Russian city of Leningrad is darkening with winter and war, and Georgi's family prepares for the worst. His sister, Marya, packs up the great artwork at the Hermitage museum for safekeeping, and their mother tends to the wounded soldiers. But at fourteen years old, Georgi is too young to


Too young for the army, one boy takes saving the city into his own hands. The Russian city of Leningrad is darkening with winter and war, and Georgi's family prepares for the worst. His sister, Marya, packs up the great artwork at the Hermitage museum for safekeeping, and their mother tends to the wounded soldiers. But at fourteen years old, Georgi is too young to join the army, and he wonders how he can possibly help his friends and family. As the city slowly starves from lack of food and hope, Georgi knows he can help his people survive, but he must face dangers as real as the battles on the front lines.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Claire Rosser
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2004: The same Russian family is featured in all three of these novels that span the time from the tsars before the Revolution up to the siege of Leningrad in WW II. Now the mother, who was a teenager and friend of the tsar's daughters just before they were assassinated, is a nurse taking care of soldiers fighting the Nazis. Her children, Marya and Georgi, who did the impossible by traveling alone from St. Petersburg (Leningrad) to Siberia to be united with their parents who were political prisoners in the ‘30s, now are young people struggling to survive the siege of their city. The focus is on 14-year-old Georgi, tall and strong for his age, who wants to be considered a man. He is too young to enlist in the army, but he does help the city by peeling bark from trees to supplement the food supply, assisting in the hauling of food and supplies across the frozen lake in the winter, and cleaning up the debris and dead bodies in the spring. (Many citizens of Leningrad died during the siege of hunger and illness, but the ground was frozen and they couldn't be buried until spring, so they were often left in the streets or parks.) The novel ends when Georgi turns 16 and immediately joins the Soviet Army. Whelan once again gives her readers an action-packed story. She bases this one carefully on the historic details of the siege, which began in the winter of l941. This family once again shows their ability to cope in impossible circumstances with grace and courage. Their love for one another, and for their close friends, helps them to survive.
In this companion novel to Angel on the Square (HarperCollins, 2001/VOYA October 2001) and The Impossible Journey (HarperCollins, 2003), Whelan offers the harrowing account of the Siege of Leningrad as told by fifteen-year-old Georgi. Georgi, his best friend, Yelena, and their families are picnicking in the Summer Garden on a beautiful June afternoon in 1941, and that very night they learn that the Germans are preparing to attack. Through Georgi, the reader experiences the terror of the bombing, the pain of starvation, and the challenge of everyday survival during a siege. Georgi is exceptionally courageous, spirited, and ingenious even after his older sister, Marya, leaves to shepherd works of art from the Hermitage Museum to a safe location and his mother, a nurse, transfers to a hospital at the front. He takes care of Yelena and her mother, Olga, providing them with food and helping them to survive without running water, electricity, or heat through a Russian winter. Whelan immerses the reader in compelling characters and historical detail. Leningrad itself emerges as a central character. The city's complete destruction is tragic, caused not only by enemy bombs but also by the digging of bomb shelters and the creation of roadblocks to fend off German tanks. The importance of the arts during hard times is a recurring theme. Marya is willing to risk her own safety to protect the art in her care. Olga is a violinist with the symphony, which continues to perform radio broadcasts even as its numbers dwindle from starvation. The climax of the novel is the premiere of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, a rousing moment for the city that heralds the end of the worst. Although the author'semphasis on historical background and detail slows the pace, young fans of the historical novel will race through this book. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, HarperCollins, 224p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Angela Carstensen
Children's Literature
This compelling stand-alone novel is the third installment in a trilogy by award-winning author Gloria Whelan. This book is a companion novel to the two other books in the series, Angel on the Square and The Impossible Journey. This story of life in Russia for 14-year-old Georgi and his family portrays life in Leningrad after the Bolshevik Revolution. In the spring of 1941 all is well for families in Leningrad, but two years earlier Russian and Germany had signed a pact of friendship that many older citizens did not think was a good idea. Their suspicions become true in June of 1941 when Germany attacks its neighbor. Life changes forever for Georgi and his family. Food shortages and bitter cold ravage the city and hunger is rampant. Georgi wants to join the Russian army and fight this enemy, but he is only 14. He knows he must do something to help his family and his country. Once the Germans take over the city, despair sets in. "People lost what little they had, and the worst thing you could lose was your ration book. Without this you could not get food. We thought about food all day long. The new enemy was hunger." Whelan's dramatic text and well-developed characters make this a must-read novel for young adults. It is an exceptional book for middle school and high school media centers. 2004, HarperCollins Publishing, Ages 12 up.
—Sue Reichard
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Haunting images and elegant prose make this companion to The Impossible Journey (2003) and Angel on the Square (2001, both HarperCollins) memorable. Fourteen-year-old Georgi; his sister, Marya; and their mother live in a tiny apartment in Leningrad in 1941. As news of the advancing German army reaches the city, the residents prepare for war. Georgi, too young to join the Russian army, volunteers wherever he can. Marya works at the Hermitage museum, where she helps pack up the magnificent artwork to be shipped away for safe storage. As the German army moves closer and begins bombing, the city is cut off from outside help. Starvation sets in, and the citizens struggle to survive. Georgi, his family, and their neighbors keep hope alive by focusing on the beauty in the world, from a chocolate bar to a Shostakovich symphony. The lilting writing style and simple dignity of the characters help construct an honest portrait of everyday life in extraordinary circumstances. From the renowned poet Anna Akhmatova reading her work on the radio to the first bloom of spring flowers, the people cling to visions of light. The plot moves quickly, but the bleak details of war are not spared. The staunch determination of the human spirit will linger with readers long after the last page is turned.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this somber companion to The Impossible Journey (2003) and Angel on the Square (2001), Whelan brings the horrific, 880-day Siege of Leningrad to life for young readers. From the moment 14-year-old Georgi Ivanova hears Germany has declared war on Russia, he wants nothing more than to enlist in the Russian army. Because he's too young, he serves his country in every other way he can, including helping starving Russians by transporting food across frozen lakes in the dead of winter. Whelan describes the horrors of war relentlessly, as pages upon pages of atrocities unfold. Interspersed good news and small wartime miracles like a butterfly and a blooming flower, while a welcome respite, sometimes feel abrupt. Readers will cheer the selfless war efforts of Georgi and his family and their commitment to the importance of art in society. Georgi's sister's work to protect the treasures of the Hermitage from wartime destruction feels as urgent as Shostakovich's heroic composition of the Leningrad Symphony. All in all, a vivid portrait of a country and a family under siege, and a testimony to human resilience. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Russian Saga , #3
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File size:
655 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Burying the Sun MSRChapter OneThe Summer Garden

June 21, 1941

Later that day everything would change, but on that afternoon the six of us were sprawled on the lawn of Leningrad's Summer Garden, our stomachs full, our picnic baskets empty. The last of the ice had long since drifted down the Neva, and now sailboats were sweeping along the river "like the wings of giant sea-gulls." That was how Yelena described them. Like me, Yelena was nearly fifteen. She was a poet and looked the way you would imagine a poet looked, with lilacs tucked into her long honey-colored braid and a flowered dress. She was small, while I was a skinny six feet, so I always felt like a giant next to her. Though she looked delicate, she was as quick as a rabbit. When we raced each other, she could run as fast as I could.

"Georgi," she would taunt me, "catch me if you can." Off she would go, laughing at me as I raced to keep up. School was over, and Yelena was going to work in the Leningrad Public Library among the books she loved. "Rooms full of them, Georgi," she said, "maybe a million, and I'm going to read every one."

I would be working among the thousands of paintings at the Hermitage, the great museum that was a part of the Winter Palace. While Yelena was checking out books, I would be pushing a mop. What I really wanted to do was repair cars, which is something I'm good at. There aren't many automobiles in Leningrad, so the auto mechanic who lets me fool around in his shop couldn't afford to pay me to work for him. My sister, Marya, found me the job at the Hermitage. She works as a secretary to the director.

That afternoon in the Summer Garden, my motherwas there along with Marya. Yelena had come with her mother, Olga, and her grandfather Viktor. Yelena's family, the Daskals, like our family, had been arrested for opposing Stalin and exiled to Siberia. Yelena's father, like my father, had died there. Five years ago we had returned to Leningrad...St. Petersburg, Mama still called the city.

We all had new lives now. We had put the misery of Siberia behind us. Viktor was a bookkeeper at an aircraft factory, and Olga played the violin in the Leningrad Radio Symphony. Mama worked as a nurse at the Erisman Hospital.

Yelena's grandfather Viktor still lived in the past. I think he was bitter because he had survived and his son had not. He had a long face, pinched in at the cheeks with great pouches under his watery eyes. The corners of his mouth were ever turned downward. Even Yelena, who could cheer anyone up, could not make him smile.

"Katya Ivanova," Viktor said to Mama, "I am ashamed to be a Russian. It sickens me that we should be allies with those Nazi barbarians."

Nearly two years before, in 1939, Russia and Germany had signed a friendship treaty. Russia closed its eyes while Germany fought England and the rest of Europe. Russia had even shared in the spoils as Germany stole one country after another, marching into Poland and Finland and the Baltic countries, swallowing them up like a greedy child.

"Russia has left behind a trail of death and suffering, Viktor Alexandrovich," Mama said. "I have a terrible feeling we will pay for our sins." Even though there was no one near us, all this was said in a quiet voice, for any words against the government were dangerous.

"Grandfather," Yelena pleaded, tickling him with a dandelion, "must you spoil our picnic with your gloomy thoughts?"

My sister agreed. "There is nothing we can do about such things now, so why make ourselves miserable?" And then she added, "But the day of reckoning will come for us. Germany will turn against us. You can't trust her. Andrei told me German soldiers and tanks are threatening our borders. He says the General Staff is waiting for orders from Stalin to get ready to fight the Germans, but the orders never come. Stalin only says rumors of Germany breaking the treaty and attacking us are a plot by the British to get us to fight on their side against Germany." Andrei was an officer in the Red Army assigned to the General Staff Building. He and Marya were engaged, and for Marya, Andrei's word was law.

In spite of all the pessimistic things that were being said, it was a perfect summer day, and I tried to put such worries aside. Yet I could not forget what had happened with the Lützow. The Lützow was a great cruiser that Russia had bought from Germany. It had been towed to the Leningrad shipyards. My friend Dmitry Trushin and I often walked over after school to watch the German shipbuilders readying the Lützow for duty. The Germans were hard workers and friendly. I had hoped they might take me on as a helper. We came so often, they recognized us and would look up from their work and wave to us. Then their number began to grow smaller. Not one German shipbuilder remained, and yet there was still a lot of work to be done on the cruiser. Dmitry and I couldn't figure it out. Why had the shipbuilders gone back to Germany?

Marya's talk of a war with Germany may have answered the question, but on so fine a day I didn't want to think about such things. I swallowed the last of the krendeli, the little heart-shaped cookies that Olga had baked, and took Yelena's hand. Together we wandered away from the frightening talk. I chased Yelena around the fountain and in and out among the trees and statues until I caught her and, looking quickly to see that no one was near, kissed her.

She darted away, calling over her shoulder, "I dare you to try that again."Burying the Sun MSR. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square; Burying the Sun; Once on This Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Return to the Island. She lives in the woods of northern Michigan.

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Burying the Sun 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Okay....but I hve to apologize to her. I was a jerk."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the books in the trilogy and even though angel on the square is my absolute favorite.i really enjoyed this one the characters were so real and i felt that this was the most inspiring one of them all.my only problem with the books ,well not problem but i would of really love an afterword.i mean now im not going to be able to sleep tonight wondering whether he /they survived.i would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.Note:in order to read any of these books you cant be one to cry easily .ages 12-up
Guest More than 1 year ago
BURYING THE SUN continues the story of the family from ANGEL ON THE SQUARE and THE IMPOSSIBLE JOURNEY. This book is Georgi's story and begins when he is fourteen years old. The family has returned to Leningrad and rebuilt their lives there. But war lurks on the horizon, about to disrupt their peaceful lives. Georgi and his friend Yelena, along with the other young people of the city, are given 'patriotic work' to do for the war effort, the first of many changes in their lives. Georgi's older sister Marya has to leave home, and soon the city falls under siege. With food running low, Georgi determines to find a way to help his city. Gloria Whelan has written another wonderful historical novel and readers who enjoyed the first two books about this family won't want to miss it.
David Swerdlow More than 1 year ago
This book is a great story about a boy's determination to help his country during a hard time and his love for his country and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago