Do you know what I really love about teaching 6th grade? I can have intelligent conversations with my students. They can share their excitement about books they're reading, and we can exchange books. I seriously just love teaching these older kids.
During our Open House night the first week of September, I was talking with a student and her parents. This girl is great for a lots of reasons: 1) We share a first name. ;) 2) I taught her in first grade. 3) She genuinely missed me for the last 6 years, and she was SO excited to have me again. 4) She LOVES to read. Somehow in our conversation, I mentioned that my favorite genre is historical fiction. Her dad encouraged her to tell me about this book that she read over the summer. I said the book sounded great, and she to my surprise, she brought it to me the next day.
That is the story of how I came to read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.
Here's the summary from goodreads.com:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
I really loved this book. Again, I do love historical fiction, so I had no problem getting into this story. This was something that I honestly don't think I knew about history, and it was horrifying and incredibly interesting to read about this time under the rule of Stalin.
If you are interested in the World War II time period, or if you just enjoy historical fiction like I do, I highly recommend this book.
P.S. I did return the favor. During our conversation, the student's father asked her if she was familiar with Anne Frank. She said she wasn't. So I did the right thing as a teacher and lent her my copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. She returned it shortly thereafter, having truly enjoyed it. :)