Children’s Book Review: “Arcady’s Goal,” the Tale of a Soviet Orphan
Arcady’s Goal (juvenile fiction), by Russian born artist and writer Eugene Yelchin, follows Yelchin’s 2012 Newbery Honor book, Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Arcady lives in a run-down barrack with other boys as wards of the Soviet Union. Their parents were accused of being “enemies of the state” and then killed. Anyone who spoke against Stalin or the Soviet Union could be turned in as an enemy and killed.
Conditions in the barracks are harsh. There is not enough food, or blankets, and there is no schooling. The only positive in Arcady’s life is soccer – he is unbeatable at it. One day the director, an overweight bully whom Arcady calls “Butterball”, tells Arcady that government inspectors will be coming to watch the kids play, and one of the inspectors just might also be a soccer scout. After battling seven tough kids and winning, Arcady learns that one of the inspectors wants to adopt him. Arcady’s life changes dramatically. For the first time he gets to sleep in a real bed, has enough to eat, and learns how to read. His bravery in standing up to bullies makes his new father act more bravely, too.
The book ends with Arcady trying out for a spot on the superior Moscow team. This book is based on the real fears of the people who lived under the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. Even sixty years after Stalin’s death, the traumatized citizens can barely whisper about their hardships.
New York: Henry Holt and Co. . Reviewed by Lillian Hecker, Children’s Services Librarian. For children ages eight and older.