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*Kobzar's Children: A Century of Untold Stories by Ukrainians* by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - tweens/young readers book review

Also by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch:

When Mama Goes to Work

Call Me Aram (New Beginnings)

Aram's Choice (New Beginnings)

Daughter of War
Kobzar's Children: A Century of Untold Stories by Ukrainians
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Ages 9-12 199 pages Fitzhenry & Whiteside June 2006 Paperback    

The very title of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuchís Kobzarís Children: A Century Of Untold Ukrainian Stories summons images of loss and grief to those who know the history of Ukraine and likely creates confusion for those who donít. That either makes it the title ironic or fitting, since the purpose of the collection is to address and move beyond both reactions.

The key word is kobzar, the traditional storytellers and historians of the Ukrainian people. Their extermination in the Stalinist purges was part of a systematic attempt to destroy Ukrainian history, and to some extent the Ukrainian people.

But stories are hard to silence, and history doesnít always die with its keepers. New generations of historians have recovered the lost stories of their people and collected their efforts in Kobzarís Children. The stories here are evenly split between Ukrainians in their native country and Ukrainian immigrants to Canada, along with children of those immigrants. The stories of farm life are the same across decades and oceans. There are stories of oppression and genocide, some familiar, like the Stalinist purges, some largely forgotten, like the Canadian work camps of World War I.

The stories in Kobzarís Children are written in plain language, with elaborate histories that could easily fill a book of necessity condensed into short essays. The styles range from journalistic brevity to confidential stream of consciousness. The one stylistic consistent is a brevity of language, as though each author is hoping to get their tale told before the reader grows bored or, given the nature of some of the histories, is pulled away. Even the poetry is reserved half narrative, and straightforward. This economy of style and simplicity of language gives the collection an emotional force that would be lost in a more consciously picturesque narrative. The memoirs avoid overt politicizing, even when dealing with such obvious targets as the Communist famines, the Canadian work camps, or the Orange revolution. The stories insist only on being heard, without attempting to tell anyone how to feel; and so gain a great deal of power.

It would be easy for a collection full of stories about genocide, exploitation, and bigotry to be pessimistic, but Kobzarís Children maintains an optimistic tone. The stories may be grim, but they, like the people who tell them, have survived. And there are moments of humor carved out of hard times, and stories of hard work rewarded. The book ends, fittingly, in the optimism of the Orange Revolution, when the people of Ukraine reclaimed their political future. Kobzarís Children is the mirror of that effort, reclamation of the past, done with heart and hope and a surprising sense of humor.

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  Sarah Meador/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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