School Library JournalGr 7-10-A balanced and succinct biography. Otfinoski traces Stalin's life from his impoverished early years in the Georgian village of Gori to his final days as supreme ruler of the Soviet Union. Although the subject's brutal and vindictive spirit dominates the portrait, bits of his human side emerge in a lyric poem written when he was 15 and lighthearted correspondence with his daughter. Little insight into the dictator's complex personality is offered beyond the statement that as a young man he was driven by personal ambition and hatred of authority, the latter a result of an abusive father and repressive teachers. While never justifying Stalin's ``reign of terror,'' the author puts it into historical perspective. Soviet political and economic history are simplified and the addition of numerous archival black-and-white photos make the text accessible to younger readers. Lacking the depth of Albert Marrin's Stalin (Viking, 1988) and the breezy style of Janet Caulkin's Joseph Stalin (Watts, 1990), this book is nevertheless a competently written introduction to the man.-Pat Katka, San Diego Public Library
Chris ShermanOtfinoski's biography of Joseph Stalin is both interesting and well researched, and although it is not as detailed as Marrin's "Stalin: Russia's Man of Steel" (1988) or Caulkin's "Joseph Stalin" (1990)--both of which Otfinoski cites--it will be a useful introduction to the Russian leader. Each chapter begins with a particularly telling quotation about or by Stalin, and Otfinoski's inclusion of many excerpts from the writings and speeches of Stalin and his contemporaries produces a clear picture of a ruthless tyrant, who, by his own admission, trusted no one--not even himself. Student researchers will appreciate the thorough source notes, detailed chronology, and the annotated bibliography that includes adult as well as YA resources. Black-and-white photographs are planned.
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