Gr 6-9-This novel of the 1956 failed revolution of the Hungarians against the Soviets is told from the point of view of 14-year-old freedom fighter Stephen Kovary, whose father was abducted by the Security Police eight years earlier. Nightmares of that night weave through the boy's thoughts, along with hopes that his father is still alive. Stephen feels that his world has gone crazy as he makes Molotov cocktails, kills a man, saves a friend's life, delivers his sister's baby, and manages a harrowing escape through the swamps to Austria. An epilogue reveals that, like the Kovarys, 200,000 Hungarians escaped after the uprising, as did Szablya herself. Much of the book is based on her experiences. This no doubt accounts for its ring of authenticity, and for the wonderful portrayal of Stephen's wide range of emotions. The author's view is balanced, as well; the Soviet soldiers are presented as multi-dimensional and human. This is an excellent story-it is exciting and personal, and conveys a deep sense of the great gift of freedom.Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Fourteen-year-old Stephen, an aspiring musician, becomes a freedom fighter in the Hungarian rebellion against the Soviets in 1956. He and his friends learn to make Molotov cocktails, kill (despite agonizing remorse), and make coffins and bury the dead. Stephen's personal life is also in an uproar: he helps deliver his sister Maria's baby, and his father returns after being in prison for years. There's a thrilling escape, based on the experiences of Szablya's family, with Stephen's family fleeing by truck, by boat, and on foot through a swamp. The authors do a good job of conveying the horrors of modern-day urban warfare, which turns familiar surroundings into a battle zone, and readers learn some recent history as well as gain poignant insight into the making of everyday heroes. Glossary included.