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Children's LiteratureThe life of Joseph Stalin is one tinged with paranoia, mass murder, and power almost beyond belief. The son of a poor Georgian family, Joseph Stalin rose to the position of absolute ruler of the Soviet Union. During his nearly three decades of rule, Stalin presided over the forced collectivization of agriculture, mass purges, the horrors of World War II, and the creation of a massive police state based upon terror. While there is no way to accurately gauge the human cost of Stalin's years in power, some experts estimate that as many as sixty million people died due to the orders of this man. Kevin Cunningham tackles this influential yet utterly brutal figure and does a fine job of detailing Stalin's life and times. Readers encounter a man who lifted himself up out of an abusive home to become a critical player in the early years of the Bolshevik's revolutionary efforts. Once the Russian Revolution was complete, Stalin carved his bureaucratic niche within the party and waited for the right opportunities. With cold-blooded ruthlessness, Stalin paved the way for his dictatorship and then protected it from all actual and perceived foes. In the end, as the author of this compelling biography notes, Stalin's crimes were revealed and his image tarnished. By telling the story of this powerful yet innately corrupt man, Kevin Cunningham has crafted a book of great value. 2006, Morgan Reynolds, Ages 12 up.
—Greg M. Romaneck