By Yulia Yakovleva, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Published in the UK by Puffin Books, Sept 2019
When Shura and Tanya’s parents and little brother suddenly disappear in the middle of the night, it’s rumoured that they have been taken by the mysterious Black Raven – and that their parents were spies.
Tanya and Shura are determined to find their family – and so Shura decides to hand himself in to the Raven. He is taken to the Grey House, where everyone is given a new name and a set of grey clothes, and everyone seems to forget their families and who they really are.
Now Shura must do everything he can to cling on to his memories, and to escape…
About the book
The Raven’s Children by Yulia Yakovleva was one of four honour titles in the 2017 round of Book Trust’s In Other Words project to promote children’s literature in translation. It was a great privilege for me to translate it from Russian for Puffin and it’s a delight to see it out now with Lauren O’Hara’s marvellous cover illustration.
This gripping, fantastical novel sensitively presents the fear and suspicion of Stalin’s terror for young readers, but it will also appeal to older readers especially anyone who wants to know more about Russian/Soviet history. It is aimed at readers aged 9+ and has been described as ‘powerful historical fiction for fans of The Silver Sword and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.’
– Children’s book of the week, July 2018, Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times
‘An intriguing, magic-realist take on a brutal reality’
‘The Raven’s Children is a gift to readers prepared to meet a dark corner of their world, unvarnished but not without its peculiar, enduring joys.’
– Avery Fischer Udagawa, Global Literature in Libraries
‘Gripping and at times quite surreal, the blend of historical fiction and magical realism set a striking atmosphere to provide a glimpse of Stalin’s campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union. Inspired by true events from the author’s family past, Yakovleva notes that those who lived through – and survived – this period of history avoid talking about it.’
‘Disturbing experiences are presented in a nonconfronting way, drawing on magical realism to step gently through the story – but there is also hope. Highly recommended for readers who’ve enjoyed John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow.’
– Natalie Platten, Readings
‘Yulia Yakovleva’s grandfather, taken to an orphanage for the children of ‘enemies of the state’, escaped and eventually found his three siblings in other orphanages; they were reunited and formed a family again. But he, like other members of her family, remained unwilling to speak of their experiences. This silence inspired Yakovleva to write about Stalin’s Terror in a way that would enable the young to empathise with previous generations. The Raven’s Children, sympathetically translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, is the unforgettable result.’
– Fiona Graham, European Literature Network
‘What starts out as an old-fashioned adventure quest (just who is the Raven?) suddenly takes a magical turn, but things are more sinister than they first appear and it soon becomes clear that, despite the traditional trappings, this is not a tale for young children. I love the play of ideas in this story and it has a claustrophobic, otherworldly feel that reminds me of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.’
– Charlotte Rose Norman for Waterstones
‘The Raven’s Children is a book about political repression, the destruction of people who hold memories of the past, the destruction of those who remember the right to free expression, the meanings of conscience, compassion, and charity. It’s about a generation without a country to stand behind it, a generation deprived of its memory of the past.’
– Ksenia Barysheva (13), in a round up of Russian teenagers’ responses to the book, PapMamBook
‘Yakovleva has a lot to say but she says it in a way that always puts the storytelling first, almost like teaching history by stealth.’
– Ian White, Starburst magazine
* Interview with Yulia Yakovleva about The Leningrad Tales series (The Raven’s Children is the first in this five-part series) at Papmambook
* Interview with translator Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp at the Federation for Children’s Book Groups blog about translating The Raven’s Children and Apple Cake and Baklava – two novels for children (9+) that touch on traumatic events in history from a child’s perspective.