Yelchin, Eugene. Arcady's Goal.
October 14th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ARC from Kidlitcon
Arcady is being raised on the eve of WWII in a brutal orphanage run by an overbearing man he nicknames "Butterball" because his parents were deemed enemies of the state and killed. Food is scarce and punishment is plentiful, but Arcady has skills at playing soccer that set him apart. Hearing the rumor that the inspectors who visit the orphanage are sometimes soccer scouts, Arcady does his best to impress one inspector who does not seem like all the rest. It turns out that the man, Ivan Ivanych, wants to adopt Arcady because his wife left his life before they could have children. Ivan tries to put together a children's soccer team so that Arcady can play, but when the other fathers find out why Arcady was in the orphanage, they kick Ivan off the team as coach and refuse to let Arcady play. When the famous Red Army soccer team is recruiting in a nearby town, the two try everything they can to get a letter signed by the school so that Arcady can try out, but circumstances conspire against them.
Strengths: There are few books written about this period in Soviet history, and there are many things that would be useful to learn about this era. This has a nice sports tie in, and the inclusion of a picture of the authors father with a soccer team in the 1940s is a nice touch.
Weaknesses: There seems to be a disturbing trend in children's historical fiction to not adequately explain the historical setting for readers who have no prior knowledge. This is a nice story, but students might struggle with making sense of the emotional situations when they don't have the back story of the privations in the setting. I liked this better than Stalin's Nose, but still wanted more historical context.