The Winter Horsesby Philip Kerr
From Philip Kerr, the New York Times bestselling author of the Bernie Gunther novels, comes a breathtaking journey of survival in the dark days of WWII in Ukraine, a country that remains tumultuous today. This inspiring tale captures the power of the human spirit and is perfect for fans of The Book Thief, Milkweed, and /i>/i>/i>… See more details below
From Philip Kerr, the New York Times bestselling author of the Bernie Gunther novels, comes a breathtaking journey of survival in the dark days of WWII in Ukraine, a country that remains tumultuous today. This inspiring tale captures the power of the human spirit and is perfect for fans of The Book Thief, Milkweed, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
It will soon be another cold winter in the Ukraine. But it's 1941, and things are different this year. Max, the devoted caretaker of an animal preserve, must learn to live with the Nazis who have overtaken this precious land. He must also learn to keep secrets—for there is a girl, Kalinka, who is hiding in the park.
Kalinka has lost her home, her family, her belongings—everything but her life. Still, she has gained one small, precious gift: a relationship with the rare wild and wily Przewalski's horses that wander the preserve. Aside from Max, these endangered animals are her only friends—until a Nazi campaign of extermination nearly wipes them out for good.
Now Kalinka must set out on a treacherous journey across the frozen forest to save the only two surviving horses—and herself.
Kerr, well-known for his best-selling World War II thrillers for adults (A Man Without Breath, 2013, etc.), enters YA territory with a compelling but ultimately flawed tale of saving the last Przewalski's horses from Nazi invaders. Elderly Max has been caretaker of the Ukrainian nature preserve Askaniya-Nova all his life, from its inception by a gallant German baron at the beginning of the century through torture and destruction during World War I and even now, as the Nazis invade. Max initially believes the Germans will, like his former master, be kind to him and the animals in the preserve, particularly the small herds of Przewalski's horses, some of the last on Earth of a very ancient breed. Meanwhile, Kalinka, a 15-year-old Jew orphaned by a German pogrom, has escaped to the steppe and makes friends with two of the remarkable horses, who are renowned for both their wildness and their cunning. Fast-paced action and interesting history (Askaniya-Nova still exists; the horses have been restored there) keep readers turning the pages, but the distant, omniscient point of view will prevent them from becoming truly engaged in the characters' plight. Flat dialogue often sounds as though it's coming from a tour guide, not a Russian peasant, and the abrupt ending doesn't fully satisfy. Though marketed for teens, it reads more like an adventure for children. A worthwhile-enough read for kids particularly interested in history and/or horses. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Gr 6–8—This story follows the harrowing journey of Kalinka, a Jewish orphan searching for safety, and the horses that provide her with comfort, power, and hope. Set in 1941 in war-torn Ukraine, Kerr's novel is also a tale of survival-not only Kalinka's, but of Przewalski's horses, a rare breed of wild horse that dates back tens of thousands of years. The story opens on the Askaniya-Nova animal sanctuary where Max, the longtime caretaker, has been ordered by the SS to kill all of the animals, including the nearly extinct Przewalski's horses. As Max struggles with the demands of a cruel Nazi officer who has turned the reserve into his headquarters, he meets Kalinka who is travelling alone after witnessing the deaths of her family. With Max's guidance and support, Kalinka and the last pair of the horses embark on a jouney across the Ukranian wilderness. As Kalinka faces frightening obstacles, her ability to communicate with the horses and other fantastical elements give her the courage to face serious threats and her own fears. Threads of "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Hansel and Gretel" contribute to the sense that this is an "old" story handed down through generations. Like the best stories told around a campfire, it is spellbinding, but it can also be terrifying. Ultimately, The Winter Horses ends on a note of hope and triumph-for both Kalinka and the horses. Kerr's novel will be enjoyed by readers who like a touch of fantasy in their historical fiction.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >