by D. Robinson
The subheading of this YA book, a search for answers and belonging, sums up the storyline very well.
Nikolai and Anna are brother and sister in an orphanage in St Petersburg. Or, are they truly orphans? Who is the man they see outside the gates watching them – could he be their father, or is he really dead as they’ve been told? That’s one of the answers they want to know.
Their search for the truth involves a map, secret tunnels and political intrigue. Working around the system, they use methods of information gathering that readers of the target age will identify with. I liked the fact that senior students at the orphanage work with the pair to bring about the conclusion. While all the children hope to find relatives or to be taken into new families, any threat is from outside the walls. Within the institution there is a sense of belonging – a family for children without one.
The novel is realistic, helped by front papers showing a map of the orphanage’s layout and copies of birth certificates for both children.
The New Zealand link to the story is that Nikolai and Anna are to be adopted by a Kiwi couple and brought here to live.
Along with the entertaining and thought-provoking story there’s an opportunity to learn a little about Russian history of the last century.
The cover, book design, and readable writing are all good and suitable for YA readers. A slight disappointment is that, despite a note that the book is written in UK English, US convention is used in the case of honorifics.
Recommended as a very good read for ages 10 to 16, or beyond.
Author: D. Robinson
Publisher: Rose & Fern Publishing
Available: E-Book on Amazon, paperback from bookstores, Amazon and publisher www.roseandfernpublishing.nz