Monday, December 06, 2021

MMGM-- Escape from Chernobyl

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Marino, Andy. Escape from Chernobyl
December 7th 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

It's April of 1986 in Pripyat, USSR. Yuri, a young intern at the Chernobyl nuclear facility, is getting ready to work and talking to his uncle, who is a radio announcer. Yuri desperately wants to move up in the ranks of the atomschiki, the nuclear engineers who control the power plant, but doesn't understand the Soviet political structure enough to "play the game" the way his uncle suggests. It's especially confusing since his uncle spouts the party line on the radio, but lets Yuri's young cousins, Alina and Lev, listen to illegal radio programming with US music. Alina's friend, Sofiya, is the daugher of one of the engineers at the plant, and is also interested in Yuri. When a test of the facility goes wrong, her father is called into work. Since her mother recently passed away, Sofiya is left alone. The official announcements are that everything at the plant is okay, but there is something odd in the air. Things are even moe suspicious when Yakiv Kushnir, the deputy chairman of the Communist Party of Pripyat, shows up at Yuri's home with his son Fedir after Yuri has gone to the plant, and tells the family that they are to come with him immediately to Moscow or they will all die. The family hesitates, but give in, and are soon racing across the country in a state van. Yuri is trying to help contain the problem at the plant, but is repeatedly injured, and things look very, very bleak. When Alina and Lev realize that things have gone very badly back in their town, they decide to try to get back and rescue Sofiya and Yuri. This is, of course, an awful plan, but they manage to hail a driver who is willing to take them toward the nuclear explosion. Will they be able to save the people they love?
Strengths: This is a very much needed book about a horrific occurrence that many people don't know about. It's a fascinating topic, and Marino does an excellent job of portraying not only the survival aspects of the explosion, but manages to give a brief but riveting look into Soviet sociopolitical outlooks at the time, and plenty of details about the power plant and what exactly went wrong. I did enjoy the fact that there was a brief bibliography, and I will definitely let my readers know about the pictures of Chernobyl over the last 35 years that are available online, because that was a fascinating rabbit hole to enter. Definitely buying a copy, and if you are having a Scholastic book fair, see if you can get a carton of this title!
Weaknesses: I understand why, for the plot's sake, Alina decides to go back, but it seemed like a very bad idea and the ending was a bit too coincidental for my taste. Younger readers won't care. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although I am completely kerflummoxed as to why this well researched and well written title is only available in paperback and prebind. I would love to have a hardcover title of this! 


  1. I vividly remember this event as my dad was a journalist who wrote a news story about Chernobyl. I'm glad a book is available to fill in all that don't know exactly what occurred. I will for sure be giving this a read in the near future. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  2. Wow—this sounds like such a thrilling and informative read! The combination of action, details about Chernobyl, and details about the Soviet Union in general sounds quite intriguing. It's a shame you can't get a hardcover of it (also, "kerflummoxed" is a great word!)! Thanks so much for the great review, Karen!

  3. It's an interesting choice of topic for a children's book. I remember Chernobyl, and what a horrific disaster it was. It's fascinating to read about.

  4. We had an exchange student from (then) communist Yugoslavia whose father was assigned to Chernobyl clean-up. He didn't live long after that assignment. I think I would like to read this book. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I remember this horrific event very well! This is the first piece of fiction I've seen in MG books on Chernobyl. This is a must read! Thank you for sharing today!

  6. Did you see the excellent mini-series? (I think it was just called Chernobyl. Very well done and informative.)